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New Delhi, September 2, 2020
Verstile goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu says that any player who wants to play abroad should be ready for a lot of sacrifices and must have steely resolve and commitment to secure place in a football club.
The goalkeeper, who was with Norwegian top-division club Stabaek Fotball from 2014-17, said a player has to “start from scratch” to rise up the ranks at a club abroad. There are a lot of sacrifices which one needs to make to achieve the desired results."
Talking to AIFF TV, he cautioned, "I don't want to sugarcoat things. Some people think that playing in a foreign country is about having a lavish lifestyle, big house, good car. It's not that at all.
"You have to start from scratch. You have to prove that you are good enough to be on the bench and then in the starting XI. And that’s at a smaller club in a smaller league -- unless you're a Messi or a Ronaldo," the 28-year-old custodian explained.
"But for guys like me -- you have to be mentally strong to stay there and work. Many people don’t know the reality. If you want to do well, you need to acclimatize to those conditions. Many younger players may not want to make the required sacrifices as they are comfortable in India,” he said.
Talking about his stint abroad, Gurpreet said, "I think it made me better by leaps and bounds as a player and in terms of mentality. It made me independent. The exposure didn’t only help me as a player. Obviously it made me a better player for sure, but the experience what it does is -- it makes you tougher. It makes you a person who can deal with every kind of situation."
"Currently, young players don't get tough situations. You are not put in an isolated place where there is no other Indian in the whole league, you don't know the local language and the food is different -- stuff that you are not used to. Making the transition through this helped me gain that mental strength."
Asked if will again go abroad to play for a club, he replied, "Of course. If everything goes well and there is a chance where I can do well, I can play, contribute and do something for Indian football, then why not! Playing abroad is something that I encourage everyone to do, especially the youngsters because they have the talent and the time, which is most important."
In 2016, he became the first Indian to play in the UEFA Europa League as he turned out for Stabaek against Welsh side Connah's Quay Nomads. Half an hour into the match, he suffered an injury and had to be replaced.
"I played 30 minutes of the game. I broke my hand and came off. However, I still had a smile on my face. Next day, I was still smiling. I had played in the Europa League which nobody in our country had done. For a player like me to get such an opportunity, I was over the moon. It taught me that if things are done correctly and you are driven to achieve something, everything is possible," he added.