After finishing as runners-up behind the champions Dempo during the 2015–16 season, the Punjab based I- league Minerva Punjab FC was awarded a direct-entry spot in the I-League for the 2016–17 season on 11 December 2016.
In an exclusive interview, www.the-aiff.com caught up with the Indian international and Stabaek FC’s no. 1 Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and talked at length about Football in the State, his playing days in the Hero I-League, Minerva Punjab FC and a lot more as after a long gap Punjab is back into the Indian Football map again with Chandigarh-based Minerva FC gaining entry to participate in the Hero I-League season of 2016/17. EXCERPTS:
*Football has a legacy in Punjab. How did you react when you heard the Minerva Punjab FC would be competing in the Hero I-League?
It was perhaps over time! There should have been a Club or maybe more Clubs from the Northern part of India because the Players from the region are talented and they need a platform to showcase their talent.
*Will Minerva FC be a focal point for Punjab Football?
Being the only Club in the Hero I-League from North India, yes they (Minerva FC) will be a focal point and I hope they get the sustainability to keep going on in the future as well.
*Is Football perceived as a passionate game in Punjab?
Football is not as popular as the other games in Punjab. But the people of Punjab are passionate in what they do, be it playing a sport. It is the job of all stakeholders involved to extend the horizons of Football in the State of Punjab and give Football the boost it needs in the State. The inclusion of Minerva FC has already added to the passion of the game in Punjab, but still more steps need to be taken to propagate the game.
*How is Youth Football in Punjab?
Youth Football in Punjab has a lot of potentials and if given the chance and the right kind of Coaching, it can go a long way in producing top level Players.
*How were your experiences when you played for Indian Arrows in the Hero I-League?
The experience when I played for Indian Arrows was fruitful and healthy. It helped me become a better Player as did my training with the Indian National Team at that time. All of these experiences have contributed to what I am as a Player today.
*Any particular moment which stands out in nostalgia?
Getting to be the first one from that batch of the Indian Arrows to go to the Indian Senior National Team at that time was a nostalgic feeling which certainly stands out.