Singh is King
Nope! We aren't really talking about the wishfully average film starring Akshay Kumar. The real king today is ace Indian soccer sensation, Gurpreet Singh who has not only managed to sign himself for a top division European club but is also on the verge of creating history by captaining it. The last calendar year has been quite a roller coaster ride for India. On one hand where there were a number of ups and downs with interesting foreign policies, funding for "Make in India" along with others, on the other hand, there were floods in Chennai victimising the lives of many and Delhi, the capital city was declared the most polluted city in the world. Amongst all the ups and downs, India displayed an extremely tolerant role in accepting things which were new and working on the existing flaws. Sports too was welcomed with open arms as Kabaddi touched higher levels of success this season. However, the highlight of it all remained the second edition of the Indian Super League.
The inclusion of new staff and stalwarts of the game was definitely a reason for improved quality of football put on display by all the eight teams. Though there was only one new team amongst the four semi finalists, the quality of the sport displayed overall was commendable. The players were visibly sharper, quicker and more cohesive this time around. Statistics also say that the successful passing rate this year was an impressing 72-25 per cent overall. In comparison to the 129 goals scored in season 1, season 2 witnessed 186 goals scored in all which is a steep rise of 44 per cent at an average of 3.01 goals scored per match. However, the fans and spectators also play a large role in encouraging the players who battle it out on the park. This year also witnessed a sharp rise in attendance where the average over all was a surprising 52,000 throughout the season.
The whole statistic reflects light on how important football as a sport in India has emerged to be. If we clock back to our soccer memory, the sport was majorly popular only in a few locations in India. Some primary one's being Bengal, Kerala and Goa. The other cities though practiced the sport, weren't really up there on taking it up as a profession for the future. The mark example for the same is none other than the modern day soccer king, Gurpreet Singh. The moment of pride for the nation became news when none other than the man himself tweeted on the 26th earlier this month making the big announcement. The tweet stated , "Proud to become the first Indian to captain a European team, it's not about awards it's about achievements "#LeavingNoStoneUnturned. The Indian national goalkeeper brought pride to the nation as he went on to captain the first division European Side, Norwegian Tippeligaen club Stabæk. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu joined Stabæk last year during the summers of 2014. He later went on to make his senior team debut in a friendly match against a junior team; Follo. The game had concluded on a winning note where the final scores ended on a 4-1. Though the game was only a friendly match between the two teams the coaching staff of Stabæk state that Sandhu had played hard enough to grab some eyeballs.
The 24 year old goalie became a star sensation and an inspiration to aspiring footballers overnight. He spoke to the media after his announcement stating, “It has been a privilege to be here and experience the standard of European football. I’m glad that I’m here and cherish every moment of it. Every single training session helps me learn something new and, in turn, makes me a better player.” When asked about his season with the I-League here in India along with the ISL and future plans for the sport, he stated that, “Yes, there were offers from India, specifically from the I-league and the ISL. However, I knew my future was in Europe. If I didn’t sign for Stabaek, I would have tried to sign for a Spanish club as some interest was shown from there. Everton were also interested.” The 24 year old goalkeeper had made more than 100 appearances in the past playing for the East Bengal Football Club between 2010 and 2014 before officially moving to Stabæk for a trial. Gurpreet was also offered a contract with the Norwegian club back in the month of August in 2014.
On Thursday evening as Stabaek played their game against Sarpsborg where Sandhu made his appearance for the full 90 minutes that the game spanned out for. Stabaek went on to win the game comfortably with a final score of 7-1. Though there was this lone goal that Sandhu didn't manage to defend, he appeared extremely calm and maintained stability on the pitch garnering a lot of praises from the critics watching the game. Sarpsborg is a part of the top division of Norway's league structure and just like Stabaek, they also made use of a number of reserve players during the course of the match, which resulted in a landslide victory for the away side. Sandhu is also the only example in history for Stabaek where a foreign player captained the side, even if it was only the reserve squad. After the match when Sandhu was questioned about his plans to make it to the first team after his successful captaincy, the 24 year old answered saying, “I am ready for the first team. It’s just a matter of time when I get my break. It needs more time and patience, especially when you’re a goalkeeper.”
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is now the 5th Indian player in history to be playing for a European side following the footsteps of stalwarts in India such as Baichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri and Mohammad Salim. He is also only the second goalkeeper to feature in the European league after Subrata Paul earlier in time. However, Sandhu also happens to be the only player who has not only represented the team in a senior squad but also happens to have captained it.