India's mainstay in the backline doesn't have to look far for inspiration. When Sandesh Jhingan looked up in the contacts to thank people after winning the Arjuna Award, it was his family, he says that he found to be the most worthy of the praise for standing by him during the most difficult times of his rough journey.
They always stood by me. It is because of them that I have become capable and fortunate to win the Arjuna Award," he said while talking to the Free Press Journal from Chandigarh on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old defender Jhingan has become the 27th footballer to be a recipient of the prestigious award.
But the former Kerala Blasters defender chose to keep few cards close to his chest and didn't reveal which team will be next station for him in the Indian Super League starting later this year.
“No, I have not decided, and it has been a tough call for me but I will disclose the decision after I make my mind,” said Jhingan who was the longest donning player of the Kerala ISL team.
“Yes, it feels good and a feel-good factor for anybody receiving this award," said the defender who does not want to say that this award has given him some weight-age especially as he is yet to decide on the team he is going to represent in the next edition of ISL, after his exit from Kerala Blasters side.
Bengaluru FC, FC Goa, and Mumbai could be the teams gunning for this defender who has been the AIFF emerging player of the year in the year 2014. But the Chhetri-led side should be his next team.
When asked if Sunil Chhetri-led Bengaluru FC could be his next stop, Jhingan defends his statement saying that when the time will tell when and which team’s colour he would don.
A very pious person, Jhingan says prayers before and after the game all by himself before the team assembles for the rituals.
"That has been my practice and my parents have taught this to us, and I maintain that every time I am out on a mission," said Jhingan.
It has been back-to-back Arjuna Awards in the sport for Punjab football as current India goalkeeper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu won it last year.
Both Gurpreet and Jhingan hail from Chandigarh and the duo has been a mainstay in the Blue Tigers backline in recent years.
Meanwhile, present and former players applauded Sandesh being picked up for the award.
The Indian skipper Chhetri was the first one as he said, “He is a perfect example of the new generation of Indian players, fearless, ambitious, and constantly willing to upgrade himself."
Gurpreet congratulated his colleague on the achievement and mentioned that "Sandesh's confidence on the field has been a standout feature."