It’s no secret that Suresh Wangjam has great admiration for fellow Bengaluru FC player Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. The promising midfielder, who recently featured in India’s remaining three round-two matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Doha and even provided an assist in the Blue Tigers’ 2-0 win over neighbours Bangladesh, has revealed why Gurpreet, undoubtedly India’s number goalkeeper at present, holds a special place in his heart.
“I started my first game for BFC in the Hero Indian Super League [Hero ISL] against Odisha FC in the 2019-20 season. The game was good, we played well and won the game 3-0. I started the next match against Hyderabad FC also, and when the game was at 0-0, I fouled a player, which resulted in a penalty to Hyderabad FC. It was the worst feeling. For a young player in his second game, to give a penalty was a huge thing. I started thinking that I have given away a penalty, after this will I get another chance, will I play again for BFC.
“After the foul, he [Gurpreet] came to me and hugged me. He told me, no problem, it’s okay. You can make mistakes. It happens.
“The best part was he saved the penalty. I went to him and hugged him. And from then on, he started calling me son,” Wangjam told thebridge.in.
Readers will remember that Wangjam was also part of India’s Under-17 team in the 2017 FIFA World Cup. The 20-year-old believes being part of that team was the best thing that could have happened to him and the other Indian players in the squad. “Expectations are high from us because we played the World Cup. But before the World Cup, the exposure we got as part of the preparatory process was something no other Indian player has ever got,” he said.
“Players like Rahim Ali [Chennaiyin FC], Amarjit Singh [FC Goa], and Aniket Jadhav [who recently left Jamshedpur FC] have already become regular starters for their teams,” he went on to add.
The next challenge for Wangjam and Bengaluru FC comes in the form of Club Eagles, a Maldivian club who they will play in their AFC Cup play-off. If the Blues can beat them, they will join 2020-21 Hero ISL finalists ATK Mohun Bagan, Maldives’ Maziya Sports & Recreation and Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings in Group D (South Zone).