Dubai, March 27 (IANS) Life for Sandesh Jhingan came a full circle this week when he captained India in a friendly against Oman. As the 27-year-old player walked out to lead the country, six debutants followed him. Post the final whistle, the number of debutants went up to 10 — with another four coming on from the bench during the course of the match.
Jhingan’s first match in international football in 2015 — against Nepal in the play-offs for the Qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 — had seen seven debutants, including himself, a sort of record at the time.
On Friday morning, a day after captaining India on Thursday, Jhingan ponders at the breakfast table.
“For any nation to grow in any aspect, be it science, sports, football, or wherever, you need to have a continuous supply of talent. Youth development will ensure that you can get a new Sandesh Jinghan, a Sunil Chhetri, a Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and all others every year, no matter what. The regular supply of talent every single year will ensure that the national team improves,” he said.
“Be it Belgium or Germany or England or anyone who is massive on the world football map, everyone follows the same philosophy. It is very good to see how well the boys are trained, and I am positive about the future.”
The flow of youth, courtesy of the Youth Development Programme set-up has, in a way, revolutionised Indian Football in the last few years. Be it the AIFF Academy set-up, the youth national teams or the Indian Arrows, or the academies, youngsters of today are better coached, much comfortable on the ball, and so much confident as individuals.
“One thing I can say for this batch is that I need to use the least words for them because they are already so motivated and mentally pumped up for the game. Of course, you need to be calm and intelligent. But you need to have some aggression to win your duels. The boys have it, they have the aggressiveness. And they also have a calmness when they get the ball. My job as a captain was easier,” Jhingan said.
“The players who know me, the people who know me, who have been with me in the dressing room, know that I am a different person off the field. On the field, you need to be extremely aggressive. That’s the way I am. You always need to charge yourself up for the match.”
Referring to the match against Oman, Jhingan smiled and said “it seems like yesterday” that he had made his international debut.
“Only the other day, I was calling my mother and telling her that I finally made my International debut. Now I realise it was in 2015. Time flies. I was kind of seeing myself in the boys during the match. I feel the future is extremely bright with the kind of mindset and talent the new boys possess,” he said optimistically.
“It always makes you get up from the bed with a smile every morning when you have something to look forward to and this batch has it. I believe there is a lot to improve, and we can improve. I am just happy being here with this batch.”