In Tajikistan,local footballer may wear India colours today

‘I am thankful to Bhutia bhai for showing faith in me. I owe everything to him,’ says 20-year-old Sandesh Jhingan

Written by Tashi Lundup | Chandigarh | Published: August 14, 2013 2:22 am

A few days ago when the Indian football team was rocked by an injury to defender Gurjinder Kumar,they immediately sent an SOS to All India Football Federation to find a back-up. In another five days,the national team led by Sunil Chhetri was going to play an international friendly match against Tajikistan. The AIFF sprang into action and sent Sandesh Jhingan along with the team.

Now the Chandigarh player finally seems close to realising his dream. For someone who is held in high regard by both national coach Wim Koeversmans and Indian legend Bhaichung Bhutia,his debut for the national team had looked imminent.

If everything goes according to plan,Sandesh will play in the friendly match in Khyand on August 14,the day that marks 20 years of independence in Tajikistan.

“Like every player,it is my dream to wear the India colours and play for the national team. I have been waiting for this opportunity,” said Sandesh,who plays as a defender.

Before Sandesh,another footballer from Chandigarh,Gurpreet Singh Sandhu,was named in the Indian probables for Asian Cup in 2011 but did not get to play any matches. However,with the ripples he is creating with United Sikkim FC,the team that he plays for in I-League and owned by Bhaichung Bhutia,Sandesh seems destined to fulfil his dream very soon.

Sandesh could have made his debut in February this year when he was called by Koeversmans for the preparatory camp for AFC Challenge Cup. At that time,Sandesh was gearing up to fly to China to appear in trials for two Chinese League One clubs which had showed interest in signing him. However,he was not going to miss the opportunity to represent India and immediately cancelled his plans and went to Pune. But on the second day of the camp,he suffered a knee injury and was ruled out for a month. “That was the hardest phase in my life. I missed both the opportunities but I knew my moment of recognition will soon come,” he said.

Sandesh,20,has a history of injuries that plagued his playing career. Two years ago,when he helped the Chandigarh team win the Dr B C Roy Trophy for Under-19 football tournament in 2009,he was called for the Indian Under-19 camp. The excitement soon made way for gloom as he suffered knee and ankle injuries.

However,overcoming the injuries,he successfully established himself as a reliable defender and made waves with United Sikkim and helped them get promoted to I League First Division.

“I am thankful to Bhutia bhai for showing faith in me. I owe everything to him,” he said.

Sandesh,a former student of Shishu Niketan School in Sector 22,had first hit the headlines when he helped St Stephen’s Football Academy qualify for South East Asia finals of Manchester United Premier Cup almost five years ago.

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