India football team goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu recollected an “unforgettable” memory with athletics legend Milkha Singh, who passed away at the PGI Hospital in Chandigarh after a prolonged battle with Covid-19 late on Friday night.
“As I woke up to the news of his tragic demise today (Saturday), my mind immediately went back to the unforgettable memory of receiving an award from the legend himself. The words he spoke to me at the time are still with me and continue to be a huge source of inspiration,” said Sandhu — who played a big role in India making it to the final qualifiers of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 in Qatar recently — on Saturday.
“It was in 2015 and I was one of the winners of the Hindustan Times 30 Under 30 Awards. The ceremony took place in Chandigarh and it was Milkha-ji who presented my award to me. He told me, “Hard work has no replacement. I even used to vomit blood at times after training but tumhe rukna nahi hai!” (You cannot stop!),” Sandhu recalled in his heartfelt message posted on the All India Football Federation (AIFF) website.
“At the time, I was playing my club football in Norway with Stabaek, where every day was a fight to prove myself and break into the starting line-up. It was a great challenge and living abroad, there were days when it was hard to keep my spirits up. However, I used to fall back on these words spoken to me by ‘the Flying Sikh’ himself, they were a great motivator and pushed me to give my all each day.”
“This is just a small example from my life and I’m sure there will be so many more athletes across the country like me whose lives were touched by the great man. Milkha-ji’s words and blessings will always be with me whenever I am fighting on the football pitch for my country.”