Indian men's national football team defender Sandesh Jhingan was named the AIFF Men’s Footballer of the Year 2020-21 at the annual AIFF Player of the Year awards on Wednesday. Midfielder Suresh Singh Wangjam, meanwhile, was adjudged the AIFF Men’s Emerging Footballer of the Year.
The winners of the prestigious awards in the men's category were previously decided on the basis of voting by the coaches of the I-League clubs till 2016. However, since 2017, the coaches of both the I-League and the Indian Super League jointly vote to select the winner.
Sandesh Jhingan, who made his senior debut for India in 2015, claimed his first AIFF award since winning the Emerging Player of the Year Award back in 2014.
“Being voted by club coaches of the Hero ISL and the Hero I-League as the AIFF Men’s Footballer of the Year 2020-21 is a huge honour for me. I take this award as a motivation to do better, and inspire others to follow their passion for the sport," Jhingan said.
"A big thank you to AIFF, my family, my team-mates, support staff and all my coaches both at the club level, and at the National level for keeping their belief in me. And a big hug to all those teachers and well-wishers who have stood by me all throughout. This award comes with a huge responsibility – not to let anyone down," the ATK Mohun Bagan FC defender added.
Sandhesh Jhingan has played 40 times for the Blue Tigers, registering four goals in the process. He was part of the Indian sides that lifted the Hero Intercontinental Cup in 2018 and played out a memorable draw at the home of the Asian champions Qatar in 2019.
20-year-old Suresh Singh Wangjam, who made his Blue Tigers debut earlier this year against Oman, is the fourth different midfielder to collect the Men's Emerging Footballer of the Year Award after Rowllin Borges (2016), Anirudh Thapa (2017,2019-20) and Sahal Abdul Samad (2018-19).
Suresh, an AIFF Academy graduate, was part of the Indian team that competed at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup and spent two seasons with the AIFF's developmental side Indian Arrows in the Hero I-League. Known for his never-ending stamina and box-to-box play, the Bengaluru FC midfielder has been capped five times in the senior team and started all three of India's games at the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in Doha in June.
“It’s an honour for me to receive the AIFF Men’s Emerging Footballer of the Year 2020-21 Award. I am extremely glad and thankful. This Award will improve my self-belief and will motivate me to achieve further success in the future,” the Bengaluru FC player said.
Featured photo: AIFF