The poster boy of Indian Football, Sandesh Jhingan, breaks in as the “AIFF Best Footballer of the Year 2020-21”. Picking up a season-long ACL injury to making a solid comeback and displaying a tremendous fighting spirit in the World Cup Qualifiers to winning this prestigious award, things weren’t too easy for this 28-year-old defender.
Here are the excerpts of the press conference hosted by AIFF in which Sandesh Jhingan addressed the media after the declaration of the award.
Conversing about receiving the most celebrated “AIFF Best Men’s Footballer of the Year 2020-21” award that too on his birthday, the defender added that it was like a dream come true. “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,” said Sandesh Jhingan. “I’m delighted, especially for my family – my parents, my partner, and my brothers.”
When inquired about his journey so far from being a young player to the solid centre back in the national team, “I was a kid from Chandigarh who had big dreams. I also picked up an injury that kept me away from the field for a long time. I remember last year on this same day of my birthday where I woke up at 3:45 AM to do my daily routine workouts. There was always a pang of hunger for me to get back and deliver the best for my country and that strong determination helped me make a great comeback till now to the moment receiving this prestigious award”.
He also advises the young players that injuries can happen to any professional sportsperson and whether to drop the towel or keep going is their own sole choice. He also added not to carry away with these obstacles and asks to display a tremendous fighting spirit in making a comeback. Everything happens for good, and if you stay positive, the good Lord will bless you with things.
Sandesh also emphasised the role of the Football Player Association of India (FPAI) in the emergence of young players into the squad. He acknowledges that all the players are working together to make the FPAI stronger in all aspects, starting with the education of the young players to the coaching they receive. The defender also cited examples of the triumphant working of Player associations in Europe and other prosperous countries and also asserted that FPAI is working forward to be successful like them so that our players could feel more protected and secured. FPAI also look forward to educating them on injury management and aiding them on career after retirement, thereby securing their future.
At this prestigious moment, the defender expressed his gratitude towards the gaffer Igor Stimac. Sandesh says, “I believe I’m a good learner, and I learn from everyone. It’s hard to be specific, but I have learned a lot from the boss. There are lots of small things I’ve picked up that have made me more professional. It’s always felt like 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”, Sandesh expressed.
When asked about the performance in the World Cup Qualifiers and finishing third in the group, Sandesh emphasised that mentality could have been different if India could finish on top. Circumstances were against it as the players couldn’t train together for a long time due to the corona pandemic. The whole camp felt that they could have done better. The team is entirely focused on delivering the best for the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers and making the best out of it.
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