Sandesh Jhingan: ‘ISL is the spark igniting our belief to play in the FIFA WC’ | Football News

Sandesh Jhingan was perhaps the first, biggest product that had emerged out of the ISL ecosystem. Over the 10 years, he has seen impeccable success at the international level, winning the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship in 2023, emerging victorious in the Intercontinental Cup twice (2018, 2023), and also the Tri-Nation series on two occasions (2017, 2023).

Sandesh Jhingan

Raised in Chandigarh, he debuted for the senior national team in 2015, on the back of his impressive outings in the league. From being at the forefront of the famous ‘Viking Clap’ of the Blue Tigers, to being the bona fide leader at the back, everyone looks up to him in a moment of difficulty. The Arjuna Award winner is confident that India will be a regular in the FIFA World Cups going forward, and he insists that the first chapter of that book will be dedicated to the ISL, for how instrumental the top-tier has been in revolutionising the sport in the country.

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“ISL is so important. Every citizen of this country will be involved, and will be remembered, in 15-20 years, when India will be where we want us to be. Nobody believed in us when we were ranked 173, people used to ask whether India has a football team? We were supporting them at that point in time, and now people take notice of us,” said Jhingan, talking in the recent episode of ‘In The Stands’.

“I can’t sum up the role that the ISL has played in the recent performances of the national team. It’s massive. The impact of the ISL has been massive. You can’t sum it up in scale, in words, it’s just been so important for the growth of our country. When we will be regular at the FIFA World Cups, trust me, people should and will say that the ISL was one of the sparks that ignited that fire. People will remember this league,” he said.

Creating role models

For Jhingan, the ISL has helped create local inspirations, which have encouraged youngsters to take up football professionally. He believes that an entire generation of Indians grew up idolising European sportspeople, because the country lacked homegrown heroes. That issue has been addressed through the ISL according to him, with youngsters from Chandigarh relating to his story and striving to chart their own journey on similar lines.

“You need the local heroes. When I was a kid, my local heroes were Bhaichung (Bhutia) sir, (Sunil) Chhetri bhai, Renedy (Singh) bhai, I can say the whole team. Because, I was very involved in football. Many of my friends didn’t know anything about it. But, they know who plays for Manchester United, FC Barcelona, so when you have local heroes, you can connect more with them. For the next kid in Chandigarh who is from the same sector from where I am, they are just like me. So when you connect with local heroes, and realise they are normal human beings, it inspires you and gives you a more realistic idea that you can be there,” Jhingan explained.

Joining FC Goa

Jhingan has gradually evolved to become one of the most recognisable faces of the ISL. He was perhaps the first, biggest product that had emerged out of the ISL ecosystem. For the uninitiated, Jhingan was the first-ever recipient of the ISL Emerging Player of the Year award, back in 2014. He has represented Kerala Blasters FC, Mohun Bagan Super Giant, and Bengaluru FC in the league, before turning a new chapter with his move to the Gaurs, who were seeking a comeback after a few disappointing seasons. From having started off as a breakout 20-year-old star in 2014 to becoming a family man 10 years down the line, Jhingan’s life has come full circle and the ISL has had a major role to play in it. In fact, his move to FC Goa was driven by familial factors more than anything else.

“Manolo was the major influence behind my move to FC Goa. To be honest, it was a lot because of my family, my daughter too. Of course, if I was just with my wife, you would change your decisions. When I was single, I had different viewpoints. When you get married, you have different viewpoints. When you become a father, you become the last person you think of. I just felt like this is a good place for her to grow,” Jhingan said in an interaction with the league, touching upon his desire for her daughter to grow in the quaint and scenic state of Goa.

Looking at lifting the trophy

Over the 10 years, he has seen impeccable success at the international level, winning the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship in 2023, emerging victorious in the Intercontinental Cup twice (2018, 2023), and also the Tri-Nation series on two occasions (2017, 2023). However, the ISL trophy has eluded him still, despite having finished runner-up four times (2014, 2016, 2020-21, 2022-23). However, the ISL trophy has eluded him still, despite having finished runner-up four times (2014, 2016, 2020-21, 2022-23). Asked if he believes he can break that streak with FC Goa this season, he replied, “I never lack confidence.” Needless to say, the team has started off on a bright note on that front.

FC Goa has had a picture perfect start to the 10th season of the Indian Super League (ISL), staying unbeaten as the campaign headed into its halfway break. The appointment of Manolo Marquez and his new acquisitions have turned things around pretty swiftly for the Gaurs, and the role of defender Sandesh Jhingan in the same has been exemplary. The India international has been a stalwart at the back, playing every minute of ISL 2023-24, helping the team keep six clean sheets in 10 games. He has recorded 5.6 clearances per game with a passing accuracy of 79%. Jhingan has scored once, and his defensive partnership with Odei Onaindia has ensured that his team has conceded the least (5) goals in the league so far.

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