Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is extremely excited to play the Asian Cup qualifiers in Kolkata, which he says is the birthplace of Indian football. In a candid conversation, Gurpreet talks about India’s chances at the World Cup, the approach of the Indian men’s football team, the importance of qualifying for the Asian Cup, the change since 2019 And much more.
How excited are you as the Indian men’s football team embarks on the final qualifying campaign for the AFC Asian Cup 2023?
This is a very important time for Indian football as we have these three important games ahead of us. Personally, I am aware of how this trip is going because I had the chance to experience it before. But it’s a bit different this time – because we only have three games, not 6 games as per the original format. So it’s difficult. But the good thing is that we are playing at home and we are extremely excited.
How do you rate India’s chances in Asian Cup qualifiers?
Every draw in modern football is tricky. We must be respectful towards our adversaries. Obviously, they also prepared for these three matches, and we understand that they did their homework a bit like us. We can’t take anyone lightly at this point because the stakes are high.
What will our approach be?
While we have to respect the teams we face, we have to be ruthless in our approach. We have to make sure we go there to get the result. I think we should be the only team to win a 2023 AFC Asian Cup ticket in this group.
What does Kolkata mean to you?
Kolkata means football – simple as that. When we were growing up, all we knew was that Kolkata was the birthplace of football in India. Anyone who dreams of playing football in India will always cherish that dream of playing Kolkata, at least once, and the majestic VYBK.
How important is AFC Asian Cup qualification for Indian football?
It means we are making progress and doing things right. It’s that place we want to be again and again, and every four years. It is a springboard for us. If we do well in the Asian Cup, we have a better chance of doing better in the World Cup Qualifiers.
What memory of the Asian Cup 2019 marked you?
For me, and for all of us, the whole atmosphere of enjoying a world-class tournament stood out. It was as close to a World Cup feeling as it gets. The tournament is organized in a very professional way. Everything is so clean and sorted. It will always be a good memory. And of course the memorable match against Thailand which we won 4-1. Hopefully we can recreate those moments again.
What has changed in the team since 2019?
In 2019 I was still one of the youngsters, but now I’m not. I am now in the category of older players (laughs). Also, the world was hit by covid and things have been very different since then. Our day-to-day life has changed – the way we approach workouts, or the way we move around the hotel, and we are paying much more attention to our lives.
What is your message to the fans?
Give your support and love to Indian national team because we are playing for you guys. We want Indian football to grow, and without the fans we are nothing.
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