Sandesh Jhingan: I believe that you are your own biggest competitor

With the inaugural Hero Intercontinental Cup currently underway, India will witness four footballing nations from across the globe battling it out for the trophy. The Blue Tigers are the highest ranked team (97) among the four nations and are the Cup favourites. The 23-man squad announced by head coach Stephen Constantine ahead of their first match against Chinese Taipei on Friday, comprised of a perfect mix of experience and youth. They all lived up to the billing as India routed Taipei to win 5-0.

With two strong teams up front, the onus will lie on the senior players of the team to come up with the goods as they have usually done in the past. Prior to the tournament, indiansuperleague.com conducted an exclusive interview with India’s defensive mainstay and Kerala Blasters skipper Sandesh Jhingan.

The 24-year-old defender started off by laying emphasis on how crucial being under pressure was for the betterment of a team. “It’s better to play with pressure than being in a team where no one really cares about what you’re going to do. I love the pressure. We boys love the pressure. And it’s not really that kind of a pressure. We just go to play our football, do our thing, play to the game and stick to our system.”

The Hero Intercontinental Cup is organised by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to strengthen India’s preparations for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup 2019 and Jhingan spoke about the importance of different challenges required for the team to effectively compete there. “It is important because it is a different kind of football. It’ll be the first time we play Kenya. They’re going to bring a different challenge. It is going to be more physical. So, to play against teams like these, you can test yourselves and know more about your weaknesses and strengths. So, it is a learning process. The main thing is to be prepared for the Asian Cup. That’s our main priority.”

The central defender also shed light on the effect that Constantine and the members of the backroom staff have had on the team, especially after their qualification to the AFC Cup. “It is quite evident to have that 13-game unbeaten run. Apart from that, to qualify for the Asian Cup and all the wonderful things we have done as a team together. Not only Stephen and the coaching staff but Ramos, Denny and I would say we have one of the best medical teams. So, as a team, we have done really well but you cannot get complacent or take it easy right now. It’s just the start. So, now we need to build on it, and try to achieve great heights.”

With a number of new players added to the squad, the competition for places at the back becomes as tight as ever. However, Jhingan remains focused on improving himself on a daily basis to stay in contention for a spot in the squad. “In football, no one is safe, to be honest. We must be on our toes and everyone is replaceable and that’s the biggest motivation when I go to training. First thing, I don’t always think who is behind me or who wants to take my position down. The only thing I care about is improving myself you know. It is a very simple saying that you are your own biggest competitor and I believe in that. So I just want to peak myself every time. I really don’t take pressure about that, but I just want to keep improving and getting better and if I am good enough I’ll keep playing.”

To watch the entire interview, click here.

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