Sandesh Jhingan thought he was dreaming when on Wednesday he was named AIFF Male Footballer of the Year for the 2020-2021 season. What made it even more surreal was the fact that the award announcement came on his 28th birthday.
“Sab sapne jaisa laga. (It was like a dream), ”said Jhingan, who plays as ATK center-back Mohun Bagan in the Indian Super League (ISL).
“I was quite surprised, but I was also happy at the same time. That being announced on my birthday, it was one of the nicest gifts I could have imagined. ”
Jhingan was recognized for his outstanding role in helping ATK Mohun Bagan reach the ISL 2020-21 final where they narrowly lost to Mumbai City FC 2-1 after a 90th-minute goal from Bipin Singh . But that hasn’t eclipsed Jhingan’s brilliant job throughout the season as ISL and I-League club coaches voted him the best player of the season.
He was also an important player for the national team, which recently finished third in its group in the second round of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup joint qualifiers to keep up hopes of qualifying for the World Cup. ‘Asia.
Recent success both nationally and internationally has come after a period of setbacks, pain and uncertainty. The Chandigarh-born defender suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, which in many cases turns out to end his career. He missed the entire 2019-2020 season.
However, Jhingan continued to work hard and successfully rebounded as an even better player.
“I remember that time last year, I woke up at 3:45 am on my birthday and started training at 4am. I worked on my rehabilitation and didn’t stop until ‘so that I could come back to the pitch again. I had to keep motivating myself because I wanted to come back and help my club and my country. I learned a good lesson – injuries are going to happen, but you have to keep going and not never throw in the towel, ”he said.
“I firmly believe that everything is happening for good, and if you stay positive, the good Lord will bless you with things.
“There is always someone who has accomplished more than you and there is always someone who has suffered more than you. You should be content with what you have and work hard to get better. arrived with this injury is nothing, it is nothing compared to the real challenges of life.
“… I felt bad that I couldn’t provide my service in the field. But I didn’t sympathize with myself. I didn’t let anyone sympathize with me, for me. I just got down to it. work … I kept believing, kept doing what I had to do and sure enough it was a very long 13-14 months to come back but it all happened for good and I was very happy that on November 20 I made my return. ”
Speaking of the World Cup qualifiers where India finished third after drawing draws against Afghanistan and Bangladesh, Jhingan admitted India could have done ‘better’ but admitted he was time to look to the future.
“We did our best, we gave everything we could… we should have done better, honestly. You can’t change it, you have to look ahead. We finished third, now it’s a matter of doing well in the Asian qualifiers, ”said Jhingan.
“The team mentality is that even if we had dominated the group we would think we could have done better. Of course we wanted to do more. We could have done better and we should have done better. I’m the first. who’ll raise their hand and say we haven’t played to our potential.
“… Our next goal is to do very well in the Asian qualifiers and then improve every time. We want to do well and play in the Asian Cup. We want to do a lot better than last time and try to qualify. in the squad and play the knockout stage is the plan now. ”
Jhingan said he is learning a lot from national team coach Igor Stimac, a former Croatia international and Premier League player.
“There are a lot of little things that I picked up that made me more professional. He himself played as a defender at the highest level – in the World Cup and in the Premier League, so that’s a learning process every day with him, “Jhingan said.
“I think I’m a very good learner, I learn from everyone, from our blunder too… of course he helped me a lot in the defense of crosses.
“… very happy to have him as coach of our national team, especially as being a central defender helps me a little more because he played in the same position.”