There is no argument that one sport rules above all in India, and that sport is cricket. Such is India’s close bond to the sport that Caleidoscope had earlier wondered whether it was actually possible for other sports to thrive in India. While it’s true that cricket overshadows all other sports, various sports are becoming prominent with some even being promoted by cricket stars themselves.
Football is the most watched and played sport in the world. In recent years, there has been a gradual rise in the number of Indian football players participating in leagues outside India. Among them, two rising stars: Indian national Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and British Indian Yan Dhanda are worth taking a second look.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu became the first Indian to play in a top tier European football league. Last year the 24-year-old started his first Tippeligaen (Norway’s Premier League) match for Stabaek with a clean sheet. According to ESPNFC, Sandhu was spotted by John Burridge, the former Blackpool, QPR, and Wolves goalkeeper, who recognised his talents and helped facilitate his move to Norway.
Speaking to ABCD Football after playing his first full match, Sandhu stated that his influences were his parents and Dutch goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar. “I remember watching Edwin Van Der Sar play for Manchester United and I could imagine myself in him with similar physique, height.” He also spoke of the transition from India to Norway stating that at first he struggled with the climate and food, including having to learn to cook for himself!
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has also been making his name on the international stage. He played for both India’s U19 and U23 soccer teams before making his debut for the national squad. He has made 15 appearances in total and is becoming a key player in the country’s journey to the 2018 World Cup.
Meanwhile, Yan Dhanda may not have broken into Liverpool’s first team, he is certainly knocking on the door. Sportskeeda reports that that Dhanda is the first Indian player of Indian heritage to sign a contract with Liverpool. While he was born in the UK, Dhanda has maintained his familial links to India through his parents. His talent was obvious from an early age and he won the ‘Search for the next Asian Star’ competition hosted by Chelsea before being picked up by West Brom and then moving to Liverpool at the age of 14. In 2013 he was awarded the ‘Up and Coming Asian Player of the Year’ award for his performances for the Liverpool Youth Academy.
Liverpool will be hoping that the star becomes an important member of the team. Despite the team currently sitting in the third position in the English Premier League, Liverpool has been disappointing in this season after a dip of form saw it drop points in its bid for the title. The team is currently 10 points behind leaders Chelsea.
Kevin Hatchard, writing for Premier League experts Betfair Football, argues that Liverpool’s weakness has been its inability to produce a consistent performance this season. With Yan Dhanda expected to get his first full start in the coming months, Liverpool could make a formidable challenge this season and next, especially if some of its promising youngsters fulfil their potential and become established Premier League stars.