Indian footballers have always been dreaming about getting a chance to feature in Europe due to the quality of football there. However, there are many players who achieved their dreams and have played and made our Indian fans proud.
Let’s have a look at the top 5 Indian footballers who have cherished further due to their playing experience in European clubs.
5. Sandesh Jhingan – HNK Sibenik (Croatia)
Sandesh Jhingan recently made a move to Croatian first-tier team HNK Sibenik for a season-long deal. The 28-year-old defender has been a leader on the pitch and after a season with ATK Mohun Bagan, he is keen on getting some European experience.
10 teams participate in the top division and play against each other four times. As a result, Jhingan would be getting better playing time as compared to his stint in the Indian Super League.
The Chandigarh-born player had won multiple honours in India. He won the Hero ISL Emerging Player of the year and AIFF Emerging player of the year in 2014 as well as the Arjuna Award and AIFF Player of the Year in 2020.
Jhingan has made the most appearances ever (78) for Kerala Blasters. However, he won the I-League 2nd division with Sikkim FC and Federation Cup in 2017 with Bengaluru FC.
4. Bhaichung Bhutia – one of the Indian footballers to play in England (Bury FC)
Bhaichung Bhutia became the torchbearer for Indian footballers to play abroad after signing for Bury FC in 1999. After his superb performances during his stint at East Bengal and JCT, he made a move to Greater Manchester, England.
On the other hand, he was unsuccessful in trials conducted by Fulham, West Brom and Aston Villa. However, he had a decent three years in England making 37 appearances and scoring three goals.
The former Indian international and East Bengal legend also had stints in Malaysia with clubs like Perak F.A. and Selangor MK Land. Finally, after suffering various injuries, Bhutia retired at the Reds and Golds.
3. Ngangom Bala Devi – Rangers FC (Scotland)
Bala Devi joined Scottish heavyweights Rangers for an 18-month long deal in 2020. Since then, the 31-year-old forward has made nine appearances scoring two goals. Additionally, she was the first-ever Asian signing for the Scottish club. Earlier, in 1936, Mohammed Salim was the first-ever Indian footballer to play abroad during his stint at rivals, Celtic FC.
Devi was an outstanding goalscorer in the Hero Indian Women’s League bagging top scorer titles in 2015 and 2016. In addition to this, she won AIFF Women’s player of the year during those two seasons.
She was extremely pleased after fulfilling one of her dreams and after joining them, she said,
“I hope my move to Rangers serves as an example to all the women footballers back home in India who dream of taking up the sport professionally. I’m looking forward to making the most of the top-class facilities and coaching and I am certain I will benefit immensely from the standard of training and competition.”
Bala Devi also has experience playing in the Maldives after a stint at New Radiant WSC in 2014. Currently, she had returned to India.
2. Aditi Chauhan – first Indian women goalkeeper to play abroad, West Ham Ladies (England)
Aditi Chauhan was pursuing Sports management in England and the third division team West Ham Ladies were interested in giving her a chance. After missing an opportunity with the 2nd div club Millwall FC due to a student visa, she had a good starting 11 experience with the Hammers.
The 28-year-old shot-stopper is a key player for the Indian Women’s national team, who will be playing in the AFC Asian Championship in 2022. She also had a superb season with Gokulam Kerala FC winning the 2019-20 IWL. She is notably one of the best women goalkeepers in the country.
For India, she won a SAFF Women’s championship in 2012, 2016 and 2019. Currently, she joined Iceland fourth division club Hamar Hveragerdi for a season-long deal.
1. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu – one among the Indian footballers playing in European continental competitions, Stabaek (Norway)
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is arguably one of the best men’s goalkeepers for India. The 29-year-old custodian however had a stint in Europe which hasn’t been achieved yet by many of the Indian footballers.
Sandhu joined Norwegian side Stabaek in 2014. On 30th June 2016, he became the first Indian to feature in UEFA Europa League qualifiers against Quay Nomads. He left Norway in 2017 joining Bengaluru FC after making 11 appearances in Europe.
Sandhu is nearing 100 appearances for his current club. Additionally, he has been an excellent leader for his club and country alongside Sunil Chhetri. He was at his best in the 0-0 and 1-0 results against Asian champions Qatar in the world cup qualifiers.
Here are some of the names who have also impressed abroad but we missed them. Syed Abdul Rahim was the second player in the history of Indian football to play in Europe after joining Dutch side HSV Hoek in 1950. Former India No.1 Subrata Pal also had a stint at Danish club FC Vestsjaelland in 2014.
As of now, Jamshedpur FC new signing Ishan Pandita had stints at Spanish clubs Pobla Mafumet and Lorca FC in 2018 and 2019. Similarly, Kerala Blasters’ Sanjeev Stalin had experience in Portugal playing for CD Aves and Sertanense.
Whereas Oinam Bembem Devi was the first women’s player to play abroad but in the Maldives in 2014. Currently, Dalima Chhibber plays at the Canadian club Manitoba Bisons and Brishti Bagchi plays in the Spanish team CDC Moscardo. In the coming years, Indian footballers moving to Europe may become reality for sure!
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