Some of India's top footballers, including national team captain Sunil Chhetri, lavished rich praise on defender Sandesh Jhingan for winning the Arjuna award. Jhingan is the 27th footballer to win the prestigious award.
Mercurial striker Chhetri, who received the Arjuna in 2011 and the Padma Shri in 2019, expressed his delight and termed Jhingan as a "great role model". "Welcome to the Arjuna club," Chhetri said in his message to Jhingan. "I wanted to be the first one to congratulate him when I heard the news. So I called him up and we had a hearty chat. He is the perfect example of the new generation of Indian players – fearless, ambitious, and constantly willing to upgrade himself. He is a great role model for youngsters and is someone whom I trust blindly and feel secured every time we go together for war. Good luck to him."
Former Arjuna Awardees ‘welcome’ Sandesh to the ‘elite’ club 🏹🤝
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) August 26, 2020
It was in March 2015 that Jhingan made his debut for the Blue Tigers in a FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifier play-off against Nepal in Guwahati and leading the side on the night was former goalkeeper Subrata Paul, who received the Arjuna in 2016.
Hailing Jhingan for his latest achievement, Subrata felt that "the best is yet to come" for the 27-year-old. "Winning the Arjuna Award is a major achievement for any sportsperson. I hope he takes this award as motivation and continues to perform for his country and club, and bring more and more success," Subrata said. "Sandesh being conferred the Arjuna Award indicates how good his performances have been. Since 2014, he has been improving and constantly growing as a player. However, his best is yet to come," he opined.
It has been back-to-back Arjuna Awards in the sport for Punjab football as current India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu won it last year. Both Gurpreet and Jhingan hail from Chandigarh and the duo has been a mainstay in the Blue Tigers backline in recent years.
Gurpreet congratulated his colleague on the achievement and mentioned that "Sandesh's confidence on the field has been a standout feature. Congratulations to Sandesh on this incredible achievement. It is a huge moment for your family. You have done them and all of Chandigarh proud. I hope you continue the way you have. You still have so much to give to Indian football," said Gurpreet. "Sandesh has been really good and consistent over the years and has become an integral part of the team. The way he has played for us over the years and has led young footballers is amazing. What I like about Sandesh is his confidence. On the pitch, it has never changed. He likes the leadership role and tries to carry everyone around him, which I admire," Gurpreet quipped.
Subrata encouraged Jhingan to continue working hard with "dedication and honesty". "He knows how much I like him. When we were roommates, I used to tell him the same thing and I would like to reiterate it again -- Work hard without ever worrying about the result," Subrata said.