Current U-16 crop better than what we used to be at their age: Gurpreet

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NEW DELHI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the first-choice goalkeeper of the Indian football team, says the current U-16 boys, preparing for the AFC Championship in Malaysia, are better than what the current senior players were at their age.

The colts, being coached by Bibiano Fernandes, have played 20 international friendlies against various U-16 national teams since January 2018 and are presently gearing up for the AFC Championship, which kicks off in Kuala Lumpur from September 20.

“It’s a very positive development. If we would have that much exposure what they have been receiving at the moment, who knows things would have been much different. They are very lucky and need to make the most of it,” Gurpreet said.

“But overall, I’m very happy that they are getting such opportunities and that youth football is being taken so seriously. After all, they are our future.”

The U-16 boys are playing Vietnam, Iran and Indonesia at the group stage.

Asked what would be his message to the team, Gurpreet said, “I would like them to be humble and stay united as a team. When you go in as a team, you can do things which no one can ever imagine. I hope they win these games and make us proud. Good luck boys.”

When asked to recall his younger days, Gurpreet said, “Every single day we would learn something new about the game. There was hunger to grow and evolve as better players. That was the first time we started to receive good coaching.

“Those were the days where I was still wondering I will ever be a professional. Those were the days when I connected with the game and learnt about Indian football at large.”

Praising the U-16 team, he said, “I have watched some of the highlights of their games. It is clear that quality wise, these boys are much better than what we used to be at that age. It makes me feel very proud. Things are changing and I am pretty positive.

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