The renowned presenter also revealed that advisers and money are the primary hurdle for Indian footballers to go abroad.
One of the global names of football, Joe Morrison, with prior experience of broadcasting on the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, Serie A, LaLiga and I-League, spoke to Khel Now on the Beyond The Scores podcast, where he talked at length about Indian players and the whole Indian football scene at large.
One of the most interesting bits from the conversation was his input regarding India international goalkeeper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Joe Morrison talked briefly about the custodian’s spell in Norway at Stabaek and why it should have laid the foundation for other young players from India to follow suit.
The renowned commentator heaped praise on Gurpreet for taking the mantle and being brave enough to head out when he did. Morrison also provided insight into what the Bengaluru FC custodian went through in what could be termed as the most crucial period in his career and what made him come back to India, leaving behind the golden opportunity to excel in Europe.
Talking about when he first saw Gurpreet, Joe Morrison said, “We met Gurpreet at the derby game and it was John Burridge, being a goalkeeping coach saw something in him that he liked.”
“Gurpreet definitely had talent but lacked consistency, because he was still very young. Wigan (Athletic) wanted to keep him longer to evaluate him further, but East Bengal wanted him back. Any player who is decent and top level in Indian football should leave India and anyone who says they shouldn’t is talking nonsense,” Joe Morrison said.
During the podcast, Morrison compared Gurpreet’s European stint with Sunil Chhetri’s spell at Sporting Lisbon in 2012. The air around the skipper’s move abroad was that of disappointment, as he was shifted from the senior team to Sporting Lisbon “B,” after being deemed not good enough. However, that “disappointing” spell made Chhetri a much better player and the same can be said about Gurpreet, who came back a more mature player in all aspects. Joe Morrison hailed him for raising his level and coming back a better player.
He further went on to discuss why it is so important on a personal level for any Indian player to move out. “In a squad of players who are as good as or better than you, you will raise your standard and that’s just a fact. So, when Gurpreet went to Norway, he was in a squad of players who were better than him and he raised his level and raised his game. That’s why he came back as a better player.”
Joe Morrison spoke on an important aspect that prevents Indian players from making moves abroad. “Primary hurdle for Indian players going out is advisers and money,” he opined. “There are certain players in Indian football that need to go out and there is a very small window as European clubs are looking at future value. I thought Gurpreet would put a crack in the dam and there will be a flood of young Indian talent moving out.”
“He had a desire to go abroad and to stay there. It was -15 degrees when he went for pre-season training in Oslo. So, the climate and the lack of a support network was there, but Gurpreet had the determination and he wanted to stay there,” he exclaimed.
“He got into that Europa League playing side out of merit and was getting in a situation where he was going to be a starter, but for that unfortunate injury.”
Speaking about what made the India #1 come back, Joe Morrison added, “The contract (at Stabaek) was not one year plus an option of an extension, it was a straight three-year deal. Which meant the club had huge trust in him. But, there was pressure on him (Gurpreet) to come back along with financial and political pressure, which made him return to India.”
Joe Morrison also shed light on the interest Gurpreet had from a Portuguese club, Boavista, right when he was supposed to join Bengaluru FC. He said, “The deal was going to be that he would go to Boavista and that he would be loaned to Bengaluru, but the whole thing happened in 48 hours (prior to transfer window being shut). It was just too difficult to complete.”
Joe Morrison went on to highlight Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s immense contribution to Indian football by being brave enough to take the important step to move abroad. “What Gurpreet had done was phenomenal and it’s disappointing that more young players did not follow. He’s moved the Indian football frontier forward and that’s what everyone should be doing. I don’t think anyone realizes how much pressure was put on him in a situation which was not his making,” he expressed.