“Like Ronaldo, Sunil Bhai has given us a Blueprint” – Gurpreet Singh Sandhu on Sunil Chhetri’s contribution to Indian Football

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sunil Chhetri
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sunil Chhetri (PC: X)

Day 2 of Team India’s training at the National Centre of Excellence (NCE), Kolkata got done and dusted on Friday as it was another intense session for both players and staff. From Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to Sahal Abdul Samad, all were seen in full cry but the veteran goalkeeper got involved in a media interaction.

Ahead of the important FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier match against Kuwait on June 6, Gurpreet shared his special memories with Sunil Chhetri as the skipper is set to hang up his boots for the nation after this game. On Chhetri’s decision, Gurpreet said: “I still think that it is too early. I also tried to convince him. But it is a moment that we should all celebrate, such a big character in Indian football. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy majority of my career with him. It is always been an honour. As of now, we are focusing on the game as it is a big game for us and what is more important is the opposition and how we are going to play them. So, all focus on that and hopefully, we can give a good send off to out captain.”

When he was asked about his commitment for the game, India’s number one said: “Commitment is always 100%. Obviously, there are games where you do not perform and there are some games where you do well. That is how football works but the amount of hard work we are putting on the ground, in every training session, we are hoping the upcoming June 6 to be our day. We are trying to keep a positive atmosphere despite whatever happened in the past”

When a question was thrown towards him regarding the learnings from the Afghanistan games, sarcastically, he answered: “We learned how not to lose!” Then, Gurpreet added: “Mistakes happen and that is very normal in football. These kinds of things only give you more experience and we just need to make sure of not repeating those against a better opposition. We need to hope that on that day, everyone is ready, giving their best efforts and keeping us in a winning way.’”   

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The Bengaluru FC Goalkeeper also praised the passion of Kolkata fans for football and said: “It is always a bonus to play in a place where passion is so high, the commitment, not only from the players, but also from the outside of the ground, that helps a lot. People will show up and definitely, will help us in getting those three points what we need.”

However, Gurpreet seemed to lose some cool when a question regarding his reflexes was asked seeing his recent dip in form. In reply, the Team India goalkeeper said: “You tell me, I have not found anything. I think that I am in a good space and every year, I feel like that I have become better only. I always hope to keep myself up to the mark and injury free because my job is to be always available for the team, rest of the things depend on the staffs.”

However, he denied any special planning for the captain. “No, everything is pretty normal and we are keeping normal because anything else we try to do, will distract. I think Sunil bhai has the same philosophy to keep everything normal and get prepared for the game in the best possible manner. I just want Sunil bhai to score the winning goal against Kuwait and that will be remembered forever”

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in training
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in training (PC: AIFF/X)

Regarding his previous memories with Chhetri, Gurpreet said: “There are so many, very difficult for me but definitely, my national debut, BFC debut, his hattrick in the Intercontinental Cup and the winning goal against Kyrgyzstan were some special moments.” When he was asked about the huge pressure on others to fill the shoes of Sunil Chhetri for scoring goals in coming days, Gurpreet said: “If I were a goal scorer, I would have taken the responsibility. It is completely dependent on the players coming up but, in my opinion, it is impossible to replicate what Sunil bhai has done in coming years. But, if you see in recent years, when Sunil bhai was not there, we did not do that bad. We have to manage things because eventually, it had to happen. New players need to step up and take the team, nation forward.”

In reply to the last question on whether Sunil has shared any leadership tips or not, Gurpreet came up with a reference of the Portuguese superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo. “He just said that whatever I do, just do it because that is the best thing to follow. Learn from the elder one and what he has done for the national team in last 19 years, it is an example in itself. Ronaldo, in a recent interview, said that he has given you a map and if you can follow, you follow. That is something Sunil bhai has done. He has given us the blueprint and if you follow that, you will become not a Sunil Chhetri, but atleast closer to his greatness” Gurpreet Singh Sandhu concluded.

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