Sandesh Jhingan is one of the best defenders in the country currently and at the age of 27, the centre-back seems to be at the peak of his abilities. Coming into the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 season, Jhingan was in the iconic colours of the Mariners and he took to the new team like fish to water. Together with Spanish centre-back Tiri, Jhingan has forged a partnership to beat in the league.
But how did the boy from Chandigarh go from being rejected by second and third division teams in the country to leading the nation in the World Cup Qualifiers? Here we will shed light on his journey in football through the years.
EARLY DAYS IN FOOTBALL
Sandesh Jhingan was born and brought up in Chandigarh. He learned the tricks of his trade at St. Stephen’s Academy in Chandigarh. The talent in the kid was prominent right from the beginning. He went on to represent the Chandigarh state team soon in the Under-19 team and had a promising start to his football career.
After facing rejections from many clubs in the second and the third division of the country, in 2011, Jhingan finally started his senior career with United Sikkim in the second division of I-League.
SOLID I-LEAGUE EXPERIENCE
After successful performances with his state and the academy team, Jhingan got a call up for trials with the second division team, United Sikkim. After successful completion of his trials, the defender went on to sign a contract with the club and got an opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of Baichung Bhutia and Renedy Singh. The team had a memorable first season with Jhingan in their ranks and the centre-back played a key role in their promotion to the I-League in the 2012 season.
HERO ISL DOMINANCE
The Indian Super League played a major role in bringing Jhingan’s talent to the forefront. In 2014, IN the inaugural season of the league, Jhingan signed for the yellow of Kerala Blasters and it turned out to be the perfect match. He quickly became a mainstay in the Blasters team and helped his team reach the final of the Hero ISL in 2014. They went on to lose the final to Atletico de Kolkata but Sandesh Jhingan had truly arrived in Indian football. For his stellar debut season, he was named as the ISL Emerging Player Award in 2014 to go along with the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) Emerging Player of the Year. He went on to play another final for the Blasters in 2016 but unfortunately, the team lost out on penalties against the same opposition yet again.
Jhingan had five relatively successful seasons with Kerala Blasters and was adored by the yellow army of the team. He soon became a fan favourite and was also named as the club captain. He didn’t register a single appearance for the club in the 2019-20 season as he was ruled out of the season due to an ACL injury he picked up with the national team. He then parted ways with the club ahead of the current season and till date remains as the player with the most appearances for the Blasters. His contribution was so significant that the club decided to retire the number 21 jersey as a tribute. He went on to sign for ATK Mohun Bagan ahead of the 2020-21 season and his life with the Mariners couldn’t have started better.
NATIONAL TEAM EXPOSURE
Sandesh Jhingan made his Indian debut in March 2015 against Nepal. Former Indian Head coach Stephen Constantine gave him the opportunity on the back of a very successful Hero ISL season. In 2017, Jhingan captained the Indian team for the Hero Tri-Nation Football Series. That was a big moment in the life of the centre-back who is known to give it his all on the field in the blue of India.
On 18th August 2017, he was honoured with the captaincy of the Indian squad and was named as the second captain along with Sunil Chhetri. In the 2018 Intercontinental Cup, Jhingan was the wall of the team in defence and the team went on to lift the cup after beating Kenya in the final.
In 2020, he was awarded the Arjuna Award for his outstanding achievements in the field of sports and became the twenty-seventh footballer in the country to win the prestigious award.
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