The dream which city footballer Sandesh Jhingan has been dreaming for the past one year, finally came true on Tuesday. On the first day of the domestic player draft of Indian Super League — a football tournament on the lines of IPL — in Mumbai, it was Kerala Blasters who finally landed Sandesh despite interest from other clubs.
Sandesh, 21, is one of the four players in the Kerala Blasters team who have been part of the national team in the past two years. Sandesh & Co. will see their association with the most iconic name in Indian sports: Sachin Tendulkar, who is the co-owner of the Kerala franchise.
The other ISL franchises are Atletico de Kolkata, Delhi Dynamos, North East United FC, Team Pune, Team Bengaluru, Team Goa and Team Mumbai-barring Goa and North East United FC.
“It doesn’t matter which team signs me for the event as long as I get a chance to play. I have been waiting for this moment for a long time,” Sandesh had said before the 25-member Indian team left for Czech Republic to train and play exhibition matches in their bid to prepare for Incheon Asian Games.
Almost a year ago, most of the top Indian clubs in I-League desperately attempted to sign Sandesh. The Chandigarh footballer had just bid adieu to United Sikkim SC after the Sikkimese club was relegated to second tier. It was during his stint at United Sikkim that Sandesh had showed his true potential and even earned appreciation from team owner Bhaichung Bhutia.
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Dempo was one of the first clubs to come forward to seek his services but Sandesh turned them down. While it raised few eyebrows, Sandesh knew what he was doing. He had just received an offer from IMG Reliance to sign for ISL and he went for it. “A lot of people said it wasn’t a good idea and I should instead play in I-League. But I liked the concept and decided to join ISL. I never doubted my decision,” said the player.
The last one year has been topsy-turvy for Sandesh as he failed to break into playing 11 for the national team despite making it to the national camp on several occasions. He played on loan at Rangdajied United and later Mumbai FC in I-League. But now the dark days are behind him as Sandesh looks set to finally make his international debut at Asian Games and then shine at the club level too. “I am really looking forward to return to action. ISL is generating a lot of interest and I want to play with top footballers,” said the former student of Shishu Niketan about the tournament which will feature Arsenal and Manchester United legends like Robert Pires and Louis among others. Current Spanish League champions Atletico de Madrid has joined hands with Atletico de Kolkata while Dutch giants Feyenoord FC is associated with Delhi Dynamos.