Sandesh Jhingan: Gutted I can't be out there with my brothers

After an underwhelming start to their Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 campaign, Kerala Blasters FC seem to be hitting their stride at the nick of time. With back-to-back victories under their belt, Eelco Schattorie's men have surged up the table, getting themselves back into the top four race - something which even at the beginning of the month seemed unlikely. Their job, however, is far from over and a lot of hard work is yet to be put in if they are to reach the semis. One player the Kerala fans would have hoped could be a part of the team's attempt at an unprecedented cavalry charge, is Sandesh Jhingan.

The Kerala fan-favourite was ruled out for the season after sustaining an injury just before Hero ISL 2019-20 got underway and won't be playing a part in Kerala's last stand. Despite being relegated to the sidelines, however, Jhingan, in a recent interview, revealed he was prepared to play any role, even a water boy's one, if it served to help his teammates. "I am trying my best to do as much as I can off the field. Speak to the young players, to the senior pros as well. Give my experience to them. I try to keep them motivated even when the results were not going our way. If I have to be a water boy, I will do that if my knee allows. I would help my team - Kerala Blasters and the national team in any way I can," he said.

Speaking of the frustration of having to look on from the sidelines and not being able to help, the 26-year-old stated, "It is the most frustrating thing, I would say honestly. I did my knee on October 9. We did the scan and on the 10th, I got to know I have done my ACL. I was with the national team then. My first reaction was that I am going to miss big matches now. Then I thought about the club (Kerala Blasters FC) because I was going to miss the whole season. The ACL is such a long injury. More than my own sadness or my family's or anything, I was gutted not to be on the field with my brothers."

This, however, won't be Jhingan's first tryst with a long-term injury. Back when he was a 17-year-old, he had to cope with a serious injury, which kept him out of the game for almost a year. Jhingan himself revealed in a past interview that the period almost made him question his future as a professional footballer. Revealing how the phase helped mould him into the player and person he is today, Jhingan said, "When someone asks me what was my best period growing up, getting selected for the India U-19 team, winning the Nationals for Chandigarh come to mind. But if I have to rate something as the best, it would be my injury period. Before that injury happened to me, I was different. That one year of being out of football, leaving school. As a 17-year-old, that is a dodgy place to be in. That year, I was very sad. I was always moaning. Through that one year of being out of football, when I came out of it, I came out as a different man."

"It helped me be who I am today. This time when I broke my ACL, I don’t think even for one second I sympathized with myself. I didn’t let anybody sympathize with me. If not for that period, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today," he added.

Coming back to Kerala, Jhingan admitted that the first half of the season was disappointing but lauded the team for turning things around in the way they did. "It is good to see how the team is coping with it, how they’re taking responsibility of turning things around. They are working hard every day on the ground, I hear. Unfortunately, I can’t come to the ground. But what I hear from the staff, they are working immensely hard with (head coach) Eelco (Schatorrie). The training is very good. The players are improving, you can see. Last two matches, they have shown that. We got maximum points. Now it is just best that we keep improving. Sky’s the limit and hopefully, we get into the semis and then get the trophy," the India international commented.

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