Indian national football team’s central defender Sandesh Jhingan and women’s team striker N Bala Devi were nominated for the prestigious Arjuna Award by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Tuesday.
Following the sports ministry’s directive to send nominations for this year’s sports awards, the AIFF finalised the names, rewarding the duo for their consistency in recent years.
“We have decided to send the names of Sandesh and Bala Devi for the Arjuna Award keeping their consistent showings. So, it’s one male and one female,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told PTI.
The 26-year-old Jhingan, who has spent his formative years playing alongside the great Bhaichung Bhutia and set-piece specialist Rennedy Singh in Sikkim United, has over the years established himself as one of the most important players in the Indian team behind only Sunil Chhetri.
Since making his India debut during a FIFA World Cup qualifier in 2015, ISL outfit Kerala Blasters’ most-capped player has firmly cemented his players in the Indian team back-line.
His growth and maturity as a player impressed former national team coach Stephen Constantine so much that he handed him the captaincy when Chhetri was not around due to in injuries the coach was experimenting with his rotation policy in leadership.
He has so far worn the captain’s armband on several occasions.
Earlier this year, 30-year-old Bala Devi from Manipur created history when she signed an 18-month contract with renowned Scottish Women’s Premier League side Rangers FC, becoming the first Indian woman to play outside the country professionally.
(With PTI inputs)