Indian defender Sandesh Jhingan, one of the most reliable presences at the back for the national team and for ATK Mohun Bagan in the ISL, said he was transformed from a ‘street footballer’ to reach where he has in professional football under the tutelage of former Indian striker Bhaichung Bhutia.
Speaking in a Hindustan Times interview, Jhingan recalled the earliest days of his career, recounting how he was given a break in 2011 at United Sikkim, then playing in the I-League 2nd division.
“I was lean and my style then was very rash. Then Bhaichung Bhutia randomly rang me and said they wanted to see more of me (in United Sikkim). That was the turning point,” Jhingan said.
“I had to give trials for around one-and-a-half to two months. Finally, Bhaichung “bhai” – I always credit him – agreed (to sign me). Those inputs Bhaichung “bhai” gave me – very basic things like don’t let the ball drop – were massive because I never had an academy background; I was a street footballer,” he said.
It was an absolute honour to wear the armband for such a prestigious Club, although we couldn’t get the desired result but we keep improving and getting better and focus to achieve our ultimate goal. On to the next one 💚❤️ pic.twitter.com/qlKsZXKHE1
— Sandesh Jhingan (@SandeshJhingan) December 12, 2020
Jhingan had given trials unsuccessfully with Kolkata clubs before being called to Sikkim by Bhutia, recalled Jhingan. Bhutia had then been the co-owner of the United Sikkim club.
From making his foray into Indian football with United Sikkim, Jhingan would go on to be picked by Kerala Blasters in the ISL in 2014. A national call-up would follow. The 27-year-old has earned 36 caps with the national team since then.