India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu calls Subrata Paul his role model; veteran sees himself in young custodian
Gurpreet said Paul is one of his role models and 'lucky' to have been able to train and watch him from close - both on and off the pitch.
New Delhi: Indian football team's numero uno goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and 'spiderman' Subrata Paul have a lot of mutual respect for what they have been able to achieve in national colours standing up as the last line of defence.
Gurpreet said Paul is one of his role models and "lucky" to have been able to train and watch him from close - both on and off the pitch.
"Subrata bhai has been one of my role models when I was starting out. I was lucky to have been able to train with him. The things he did, and still does in training, I wished I could do the same and tried to replicate them when I was young," he said.
The 33-year-old Paul is no longer in the scheme of things in the national team while Gurpreet is the number one goalkeeper of the national team. The duo has manned the Indian goal for most of India's matches in the last decade.
Gurpreet was just 18 when he was part of the Indian team for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, where Paul produced some stunning displays that earned him the nickname 'Spiderman' from the South Korean coach.
Remembering Paul's performance, the 28-year-old Gurpreet said it was 'the perfect example' for him to learn from his senior.
"The team of Asian Cup 2011 consisted of so many iconic names in Indian football, including Subrata bhai, who was simply excellent. I was the youngest player in the team then, and he was the perfect example for me to learn from. I tried to grasp as much as I could from observing him from so close and the experience has helped me become the player I am today," he said.
"We have all seen how good Subrata bhai is, technically. He has been a role model for all aspiring keepers in the last decade-and-a-half. He is such a strong character mentality wise as well and his determination and commitment towards the team are really admirable."
Paul returned the compliments on his junior fellow goalkeeper.
"It's very kind of him to say so. I know him since the 2011 AFC Asian Cup where he was my room-mate. He is someone who never fools around during practice sessions and is tireless. Sometimes, I see myself in him, Paul said.
Paul said it was Gurpreet's confidence in his abilities that stood out and wished him well for the future.
"What struck me about him was his confidence in himself. He was never averse to learning new stuff. He is still young and I wish him all the best. You need to stand up and serve your country for long. Good luck," said the goalkeeper who was a key member of the national team then led by Bhaichung Bhutia.
Both keepers have had stints with European clubs and have won the Arjuna Award - Paul in 2016 and Gurpreet in 2019. Their dominance has also been a talking point at the domestic level with Paul winning the ISL Golden Glove award in the 2017-18 season, while Gurpreet won it in the next two editions.
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