Gurpreet Makes Football History, Plays in Europa League Qualifier

The Indian national team goalkeeper started for Norwegian Tippeligaen club Stabaek FC in a Europa League qualifier.

2 min read
(Photo Courtesy: <a href=";theater">Facebook/Gurpreet Singh Sandhu</a>)

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s ground-breaking journey through uncharted territory reached the most important milestone as he became the first Indian footballer to play for the first team in the Europa League qualifier.

Standing at a towering 6 feet and 4 inches, the Indian national team goalkeeper started for Norwegian Tippeligaen club Stabaek FC in an Europa League qualifier against Welsh side Connah’s Quay Nomads FC in an away match in Rhyl, Wales on Thursday.

Sandhus’ night was, however, cut short by a hand injury that prompted a change after 28 minutes of play and brought into action Sayouba Mande, the team’s first choice custodian till this match.

I am proud but also disappointed that it had to end due to an injury. But then again they are part and parcel of the game and we can’t do anything about them.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
(Photo Courtesy: <a href=";theater">Facebook/Gurpreet Singh Sandhu</a>)
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Gurpreet Singh Sandhu)

The 24-year-old Indian, who has already started his recovery session in the gymnasium added:

I will have an x-ray taken in some time and we will see. But I am more or less ruled out of the second leg game. I am still looking forward to the future matches and there will be few play-offs. 

While he has slowly walked his way into the starting XI at the expense of the more experienced custodian from Ivory Coast, Sandhu has been the number one goalkeeper in the Indian team since Stephen Constantine took over in 2015, with the English coach preferring him over veteran Subrata Paul.

Sandhu, who signed for Stabaek in 2014, made headlines in May when he became the first Indian to start in the first team in a top-division league of Europe. In that match against IK Start in the Norwegian Tippeligaen, he kept a clean sheet in a 5-0 away victory.

Mohammed Salim, former captain Bhaichung Bhutia and current national skipper Sunil Chhetri have all played abroad, but they were never able to play in the top-flight.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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