After winning the Emerging Player of the Tournament in last year’s ISL, Sandesh Jhingan has become one of the notable Indian footballers in the tournament. He was a crucial player for Kerala Blasters last year. And the team retained him by paying 1.55 crores this season.
After starting to play football at his school, the 21-year-old has improved fast and earned an international cap earlier this year - thus fulfilling his dream.
Jhingan spoke about Blasters’ inconsistent run in the tournament, coach Terry Phelan, the difficulties of shuttling between national duty and ISL, and much more.
It has been a difficult season for Kerala Blasters so far. Where do you think your team has gone wrong?
Of course, compared to the last season, we are not in the same position. It’s a short tournament and sometimes things don’t work out well for you. So, you miss out on two-three games, and you fall behind the line. But in the remaining few games we expect to play really good football.
The results seemed to have improved after Terry Phelan took over as coach. What does he bring to the table?
He is a very good motivator and a good tactician as well. He has played at the top level. He has done some great things in football.
You started your career at the St. Stephen's Football Academy in Chandigarh. In what way did the academy help you?
I started my career at Sishu Niketan [his school]. I joined the academy two to three years later. Yes, the Academy has helped me. But I would say the big change in my life happened when I was with the Under-19 India team.
You earned an international cap earlier this year. How did it feel to represent your country for the first time?
It was the biggest honour for me. It’s something I would cherish for the rest of my life.
India had a disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign, losing five straight games. What do you think were the reasons?
We are not playing at the top level. There are no excuses about that. But there are two sides to a coin. And I would like to be optimistic about the approach. We won against Guam recently and have three points on the table. So, let's forget the five losses and look at the win.
Were you satisfied with the practice sessions before the qualifiers?
Of course, you have the ISL and the national team. It’s a tough and delicate situation… I would not like to say much on that.
Has it been tough shuttling between national duty and ISL?
As a player, it’s difficult for me. This season hasn’t been that good as the last one. I joined the team (Kerala Blasters) late because I was with the national team. The first three games are the most important games and I missed them all. I am not complaining but it’s difficult for players to come in and go out and it will be nice to have a better calendar.
You were last season's Best Young Player. Do you see any differences in this year's ISL?
There are more young players. If you see last season, there were quite a few of them who were at the twilight of their career. But this year there are youngsters. It adds more speed and energy to the game.
Who are the sports persons you look upto?
In football, I look up to Paolo Maldini. And, in life, I look up to my family.
What is your ultimate goal as a footballer?
I have already achieved that by playing for India. But I would like to win as many trophies as I can with the national team and the club level as well.
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