Sandesh Jhingan was still in school when Arsenal remained unbeaten and became the first English top flight club to win the Premier League title with an enviable record in the 2003-04 season. As Sandesh grew up playing football,two Arsenal players,Fredrik Ljungberg and Robert Pires,were his idol and he wished to meet. The Chandigarh boy eventually decided to make a career in football.
Come 2014 and Sandeshs long-cherished dreams will come true. As the first professional football player from Chandigarh to be signed for Indian Super League (ISL) Football,an IPL-style tournament being organised by All India Football Federation and IMG-Reliance. Sandesh and many others like him who dreamt of meeting the football legends,will get the opportunity to play with them.
It will be a dream-come true for footballers like us who have watched them playing only on TV. Meeting them in person and playing along with them will be a surreal moment for us, said the 20-year-old Sandesh.
Sandeshs tryst with destiny has taken him to many places. From Chandigarh to Sikkim to Goa,in search of fulling his ambitions in the sport. When United Sikkim Football Club was relegated to I-League Second Division in April earlier this year,the defender had plenty of choices at his disposal such as signing for a big I-League club. At the same time when he was mulling moving out of the Sikkimese club owned by Indian football legend,Bhaichung Bhutia,the All India Football Federation (AIFF) came up with the idea of franchise-based event to be held every year for a period of three months.
Enamoured by what he saw and heard,Sandesh decided to ply his services for the football league. It was a tough decision to quit United Sikkim as it was Bhaichung bhai who had given me the opportunity to play for the club. He was very supportive and then right after the I-League ended I was signed for ISL. The idea intrigued me, he said.
With the signing of several top former players like Manchester Uniteds Louis Saha and Dwight Yorke and Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish for the football league and AIFF and sponsors IMG-Reliance mulling a proposal to send the players for exposure trip in European countries,Sandesh wants to make the most of the experience. I feel that Indian players have the potential to shine at the big stage. ISL is a step in the right direction. The more we play against foreign players,the more confident we will be. It will,in turn,improve the scenario of football in India. I want to play good football and want to become a regular member of the Indian team, Sandesh,a former student of Shishu Niketan School who was included in the Indian squad for the SAFF Championship,said.