As Chandigarh footballer Sandesh Jhingan turned 28 on Wednesday, he received the news of getting the All India Football Federation men’s footballer of the year award for the year 2020-21. The Chandigarh footballer, who had been given the Arjuna award last year, termed getting the award as a dream moment.
“When I got to know about the award, it felt like a dream. I was quite surprised, but I was also happy at the same time. This being announced on my birthday, it was one of the best gifts I could have imagined. I am really happy, especially for my family including my parents, my partner and my brothers,” said the Chandigarh footballer.
The footballer, who plays on the centre-back position for the Indian team, mentioned he has learned a lot from the team’s head coach Igor Stimac in the last couple of years, adding that he believes that the coach has especially helped him in many ways, including improving the way he defends crosses.
“I believe I am a good learner, and I learn from everyone. It’s hard to be specific, but I have learned a lot from Igor. There are lots of small things I’ve picked up that have made me more professional. He himself has played as a defender at the highest level – at the World Cup and in the Premier League, so it’s a learning process every day with him. If I have to pick one particular aspect, I think he has helped me improve how I defend crosses,” Jhingan told All India Football Federation.
While the Chandigarh footballer has seen success at both domestic and international football, he has had to go through an uncertain phase of recovery from a serious injury, which had sidelined him for months. “I had to keep motivating myself as I wanted to come back and help my club and country. I learnt a good lesson that injuries will happen, but you need to keep going and never throw in the towel. I am a firm believer that everything happens for good, and if you stay positive, the lord will bless you with things,” Jhingan said.
Sandesh played a crucial role in the Indian football team’s recent FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Joint Qualifiers campaign as India finished third in Group E and qualified for the third round of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers.
“We have some good memories of the Asian Qualifiers, but it won’t be easy. We cannot be complacent or take anything lightly. We will be positive about the draw and aim to perform better than we did the last time. There’s a lot of hunger, passion, determination, and enthusiasm in the squad and we want to qualify strongly for the Asian Cup with our heads held high. I hope that things go well and we can make our country proud,” said Jhingan.