NEW DELHI: Blue Tigers defender Sandesh Jhingan is the AIFF Men’s Footballer of the Year 2020-21, with midfielder Suresh Singh Wangjam being named the winner of the AIFF Men’s Emerging Footballer of the Year 2020-21 Award. Both the players were voted by the club coaches.
It is the first time that the towering central defender has received the Player of the Year award, having won the Emerging Player of the Year Award in 2014.
He shared his joy at receiving the honour, saying: “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. 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.”
Sandesh made his Senior National Team debut in 2015 in Guwahati and has since gone on to make 40 appearances for the Blue Tigers, scoring four goals. 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.
Additionally, he has captained the senior team on five occasions, the most recent being the International Friendly against Oman in Dubai in March this year. He also received the prestigious Arjuna Award from the Government of India in 2020.
20-year-old Suresh Singh Wangjam, who made his Blue Tigers debut earlier this year against Oman, becomes the latest midfielder to win the Men's Emerging Footballer of the Year Award.
He stated: “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.”
A former AIFF Academy cadet, Suresh was part of the Indian side that competed at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017 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 midfielder has notched up five senior national team caps and started all three of India's games at the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in Doha in June.
The winners for the awards were chosen on the basis of votes from Hero Indian Super League and Hero I-League club coaches.
"Heartiest congratulations to the Awardees. I hope they will continue moving forward from strength to strength in the future and continue to inspire with their performances and achievements," AIFF president Praful Patel said in his statement.