Adversity is something Sarpreet Singh hasn’t faced often in his football career.
Growing up, the supremely gifted Aucklander was always the best player in his youth teams, joining the Wellington Phoenix academy while still at school and making his A-League debut two days after his 18th birthday.
Following two eye-catching seasons with the Phoenix, Singh earned a dream move to German powerhouses Bayern Munich midway through 2019 and made his Bundesliga debut off the bench before he’d even turned 21.
Everything was well ahead of plan and he had the world at his feet.
Singh played mainly in Bayern’s second team, and was loaned out to second-tier side Nurnberg ahead of the 2020/21 season. It was to be the first real setback of his career. In six unhappy months, Singh started only six games, featured just 12 times and never played 90 minutes. He wasn’t involved in a goal, as its scorer or creator.
“It didn’t quite work out for different reasons,” Singh told the Herald.
“It was a challenging time for sure – on and off the field, physically and mentally. It’s something I’ve never really experienced before.
“All along my career’s been uphill. Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve played and done well. But these things happen in football; it’s about how you react and recover from them.
“Anyone who makes a good career for themselves; it’s never all uphill. You’re going to face challenges and obstacles; it can be not playing much or other reasons. The most important thing is how you react and how you take the next steps.
“I take it as a lesson and it’s actually a good thing it happened in the long run for my career and the future. It didn’t go as I expected, but I regrouped and now I’m in a good space and back to enjoying football again.
“I had a good six months back at Bayern after that and I’m looking forward to the rest of this season, trying to play as much as possible, trying to score, create goals for my teammates and be dangerous. That’s my biggest focus now.”
Singh is on loan again for the 2021/22 season, this time at Regensburg, another German second-tier side, but things could hardly be more different than his spell with Nurnberg.
Playing a left-sided attacking role, he’s started all five games this season, scoring twice (including an eye-catching strike in the last game against Schalke) and providing another four assists. Regensburg have won all five matches and sit joint top of the table.
“There’s quite a lot of freedom for me to move around, especially in attack,” said Singh.
“I’m free to find space wherever I see fit. I’ve played mainly on the left side, but I’m flexible and can play through the middle as a 10 or even on the other side.
“A lot of the work we did in pre-season is paying off. The coach knows what he wants and how he wants to play and he’s very clear about that. He’s really helpful in communicating with the team and setting us up to get as many wins as possible.”
Singh would have been an automatic selection in the New Zealand side that reached the knockout stages at the Olympic Games this year, but opted instead to take a full part in pre-season training at Regensburg and push for a place in the starting side. While it’s paid off, he found it difficult watching his close friends do battle in Japan without him.
“I would love to have gone. I trained with the Auckland-based group and said to myself that I really wanted to go. But I think I made the right decision and hopefully one day I can play at the Olympics as an over-age player.”
Off the field, Singh has his own apartment in Regensburg, about 90 minutes north of Munich. He’s fully embraced the German culture and language, taking weekly lessons to improve his fluency.
“You can get away with speaking English here, because everyone speaks English. But my German is good; I have all the vocabulary and now it’s just about putting it into practise. I enjoy taking lessons and trying to improve and it gives me something to do off the field.
“I know all the swear words of course, because you need those on the field sometimes!”
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