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The rigours of European football
Adwait A. Patil  14th Feb 2015

Gurpreet Singh

The recently concluded Indian Super League (ISL) could be termed as a success in terms of the sheer number of spectators it amassed, both in the stadiums and on television. Close to 400 million viewers tuned into the ISL on their television sets. This number increases when you take into the account of viewers who streamed matches on the internet and the 25,000 people who filled the stadiums week in, week out on an average.

What this tournament does for Indian football in the long run (our national team is currently ranked 171st as of January 2015), only time will tell. On the other hand, one of India's most promising footballers — Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, decided that his future lay elsewhere. The 23-year-old goalkeeper from Punjab became only the fifth Indian to secure a professional contract with a European club. The former East Bengal custodian, who turned out for the Red and Golds over 100 times during his five years there, is now fighting for the number one sport against Ivorian World Cup goal keeper Sayouba Mandé.

Sandhu, who signed a contract with Norwegian top tier club Stabæk Fotball on 15 August, 2014 is determined to make European football his home. Here, he answers some questions about his decision to move to Europe and what he's determined to achieve in the near future.

Q. How have your first six months at Stabæk been?

A. It has been an amazing journey so far. I have learned a lot and hopefully will keep the process going and become a better player.

Q. As a goalkeeper, what are the key points you focus on when training?

A. I think there is no single point that we focus on here. We work on everything in training but a lot is done to gain body balance, as well as core and body strengthening.

Q. How is it working under Bob Bradley and the coaching staff at Stabæk Fotball?

A. It is great working under Bob and the staff. I get to learn a lot from him. The way he sees the game and wants us to play is very good. He supports the team through thick and thin.

Q. What is your view on the Indian Super League having not participated in the tournament?

A. The ISL, I think, is a great thing that has happened to Indian Football and people have given a good response to it. However, I have no regrets of not playing in the ISL as playing in Europe was my first priority. This is the place where I think I can develop myself because the standard of football is higher than in India currently.

Q. What are the main differences between the Indian and Norwegian football leagues that you have experienced?

A. The standard of football is higher in Norway than in Indian football leagues. It's more competitive and the quality of players you face in every game is very good.

Q. Can you name some professionals who've helped you through your career and some role models who you have followed?

A. I think if I start taking names of the people who have helped me become what I am, it won't end! Every single coach and team I've been playing for has helped me shape my career and I'm thankful to all of them. Edwin Van Der Sar also been a big inspiration.

Q. What are your immediate goals for the future?

A. I think for now I just want to improve myself and try to do well in training everyday and try to play regularly in the first team.

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