By Nilanjan Datta,
AIFF Media Team
DUBAI: Life for Sandesh Jhingan came to a full circle on Thursday (March 25, 2021) when he captained India in the International Friendly against Oman. As the 27-year-old walked out leading the country, six debutants followed him. Post the final whistle, the number of debutants went up from six to 10 – with another four coming on from the bench during the course of the match.
Sandesh’s first match in International Football in 2015 (against Nepal in the play-offs for the Qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018) had seen seven debutants, including himself – which was kind of a record at that time.
The morning after, at the breakfast table, Sandesh ponders, “For any nation to grow in any aspect – be it science, sports, football or wherever, you need to have a continuous supply of talent. Youth development will ensure that you can get a new Sandesh Jinghan, a Sunil Chhetri, a Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and all others every year, no matter what. The regular supply of talent every single year will ensure that the National Team improves,” he averred.
“Be it Belgium or Germany or England or anyone who is massive on the world football map, everyone follows the same philosophy. It is very good to see how well the boys are trained, and I am positive about the future,” he expresses.
The flow of youth, courtesy of the YDP set-up has, in a way, revolutionised Indian Football in the last few years. Be it the AIFF Academy set-up, the youth national teams or the Indian Arrows, or all academies, the youth of today is better coached, much comfortable on the ball, and so much confident as an individual.
“One thing I can say for this batch is that I need to use the least words for them because they are already so motivated and mentally pumped up for the game. Of course, you need to be calm and intelligent. But you need to have some aggression to win your duels. The boys have it, they have the aggressiveness. And they also have a calmness when they get the ball. My job as a captain was easier,” he expressed.
“The players who know me, the people who know me, who have been with me in the dressing room, know that I am a different person off the field. On the field, you need to be extremely aggressive. That’s the way I am. You always need to charge yourself up for the match.”
Referring to the match against Oman, Sandesh smiled, mentioning “it seems like yesterday” that he had made his International debut.
“Only the other day, I was calling my mother and telling her that I finally made my International debut. Now I realise it was in 2015. Time flies,” he smiled. “I was kind of seeing myself in the boys during the match. I feel the future is extremely bright with the kind of mindset and talent the new boys possess.”
“It always makes you get up from the bed with a smile every morning when you have something to look forward to and this batch has it. I believe there is a lot to improve, and we can improve. I am just happy being here with this batch.”