Sandesh Jhingan departs Kerala Blasters, leaving behind a strong legacy
After six successful seasons at Kerala Blasters, Sandesh Jhingan mutually parted ways with the Indian Super League (ISL) club, having captained the side during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 ISL seasons. The lanky defender decided to part ways on Thursday after six seasons at the club, making 76 appearances. Having been a part of the Kochi-based outfit since the inception of India’s top league in 2014, the defender from Punjab was part of the team that reached two ISL finals, first in 2014, and then in 2016.
Having been a part of the youth setup at St. Stephen’s Academy, Jhingan began his professional career at I-League second division side United Sikkim in 2011-12. Playing alongside stars like Bhaichung Bhutia and Renedy Singh the following season, he helped his side earn promotion to the top division. Although that promotion was short-lived and the team found themselves back in the second division at the end of the 2013-14 season, he remained one of their brightest sparks, earning a place in the initial draft of the ISL back in 2014 and joining Kerala Blasters.
“It was great to be a part of Kerala Blasters right from day one. We’ve built some great memories together as we helped each other grow but have finally decided to part ways. I wish all the good luck to the club going forward,” the defender said about his time with the club.
Jhingan’s debut season was more than memorable, having finished the season as runners-up and being adjudged the Emerging Player of the League at the raw young age of 21. His versatility was also on display, and he was often used by head coach David James as a full-back instead of his usual position of centre-back.
He finished the season with nine blocks, 31 interceptions, 42 tackles, 85 clearances and two assists, having firmly established himself as one of the first players on the team sheet, thus beginning his tryst for Kerala in the Indian Super League.
After a subpar second season in the ISL, the Chandigarh-born defender was key to Kerala’s run to the final in the third edition of the League in 2016, where they lost, yet again, to three-time champions ATK FC. However, he was named skipper of the team for the next season, much to the delight of the Kerala fans, who had nicknamed him ‘The Wall’ after his exemplary defensive performances for the club from Kochi.
Under his stewardship in the 2017-18 edition of the ISL, Kerala conceded only 22 goals the whole season while losing just five matches, but it wasn’t enough to qualify for the top four. In his 17 appearances during the campaign, he made 14 interceptions, 20 blocks, 50 tackles and 124 clearances besides also providing an assist. The following season was less meritorious, with Jhingan making 47 tackles, 20 interceptions and 119 clearances for his side.
Kerala Blasters missed the leadership of their talismanic defender during the recently concluded 2019-20 season after Jhingan was ruled out with an ACL injury before the season began. In his absence, Kerala conceded 32 goals, while finishing seventh on the league table. During his 76 appearances for Kerala across five seasons, he made 93 interceptions, 97 blocks, 194 tackles and 502 clearances.
The 26-year-old defender is a regular feature in the national setup as well, having established himself as a key member of the Blue Tigers’ defence under the reign of Stephen Constantine. He was a key member of the Indian team that went on a 13-match unbeaten run under the former head coach while captaining the side in the absence of Sunil Chhetri on many occasions. His flair for leadership and ability to score important goals for the national team continue to make him a valuable asset to the team.
Such was the importance of Sandesh Jhingan that his jersey number 21 has been permanently retired to commemorate his commitment to the club. "We would like to take this opportunity to thank Sandesh for his commitment, loyalty, and passion for the club and its supporters. KBFC respects Sandesh's desire to pursue a new challenge and we wish him all the best for this new journey. We know that he will always remain a Blaster at heart. As a tribute to his contributions to the club, we will be permanently retiring his jersey number 21,” Nikhil Bhardwaj, Owner of Kerala Blasters FC said about the talismanic defender.
“A special mention to the people of Kerala who have always stood behind the club no matter what. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the love you have shown myself and KBFC. I am sure you will continue to support the club in the future as well. Both the club and the fans will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you,” Sandesh gushed while thanking the passionate Manjappada fan base of Kerala Blasters.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @SandeshJhingan