On May 21, Hero Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters FC and fan-favourite Sandesh Jhingan mutually decided to part ways after six memorable years. The team has confirmed that they will retire the number 21 jersey as a tribute to their centre-back. Jhingan shot to the limelight in the inaugural Indian Super League season back in 2014 where Kerala Blasters finished runners-up and the young defender went on to win the Emerging Player of the Season award. He cemented his place down the years both in the club and in the national team, and was named club captain from the 2018-19 season.
The Chandigarh-born player has made 76 appearances for the club over the six years and is currently their most-capped player. He, however, missed the whole of the 2019-20 season due to an injury. Jhingan had signed a contract extension with the Blasters in 2019 that would have seen him stay at the club for another three years but the restructuring of the club seems to have been the issue behind this decision.
Rise of the defender
Sandesh Jhingan was at the heart of both the 2014 and 2016 campaigns, where the Yellow Army managed to reach the final of the Indian Super League. However, on both occasions, they failed to get the better of their arch-rivals ATK FC. 2016 final was particularly a hard pill to swallow as they lost out on penalty shootouts at their home ground in Kochi.
Jhingan contributed immensely to the success of the club and in the process earned him a national team call up. He made his India debut against Nepal in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier match. Since then he’s been the wall of the Indian defence and has established himself as one of the first names on the team sheet. In the absence of the regular captain, Sunil Chettri, former Indian Indian football team coach, Stephen Constantine handed Jhingan the captaincy of the national team – a massive moment in the centre-back’s career.
ACL Injury and recovery
Sandesh Jhingan last played a competitive match back in September 2019. He was the mainstay in defence, which kept Asian Champions Qatar at bay on their home ground in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification match. Unfortunately, he suffered an ACL injury in a pre-friendly match later on and was initially sidelined for six months. But the recovery process took more than expected, leading to him missing out on the entire 2019-20 Indian Super League season.
Kerala had a stroke of wretched luck in the campaign which started off with a disastrous pre-season. Added to this, their new head coach Eelco Schattorie couldn’t name an unchanged line-up for seventeen straight matches due to various injuries to his key players. Jhingan’s absence was felt throughout and they only managed to achieve 19 points from 18 games, which led to the eventual sacking of the Dutchman at the end of the season.
Sandesh Jhingan has always been a fan favourite and the passionate Kerala fan group, ‘Manjapadda’ will miss the towering defender dearly. The next move for the 26-year-old is yet to be known but there’s conjecture that he has invited interest from Australia, UK and Qatar.
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