Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Anirudh Thapa win prestigious AIFF awards

Indian internationals Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Anirudh Thapa received the 2019-20 AIFF Men’s Player of the Year and Emerging Footballer of the Year awards respectively, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) announced on Friday. Both players were chosen based on votes from Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) and Hero I-League club head coaches.

“Huge thanks go to AIFF and everyone who has supported and helped me relentlessly to help me achieve this today. There was always a desire to reach this point and this is an award which I have always looked up to. Chhetri-bhai (Sunil Chhetri) has won it so many times and I have always thought when I can be worthy enough to win it,” the Bengaluru FC custodian said.

Although this is the first time Gurpreet has received the prestigious award, he is the second goalkeeper to be named the AIFF Men’s Player of the Year after Subrata Paul in 2009. The Blue Tigers’ shot-stopper played an integral role in the national team’s memorable goalless draw against Qatar last year and he also kept 11 clean sheets in the Hero ISL last season to win the league’s Golden Glove award for a second consecutive campaign.

READ: Sunil Chhetri: Every minute felt like an hour during draw against Qatar

Meanwhile, Chennaiyin FC midfielder Anirudh Thapa was awarded the AIFF Men’s Emerging Footballer of the Year for his starring role for club and country last season. Thapa has been a regular feature in Igor Stimac’s team and played the full 90 minutes of India’s draw against Qatar. In the Hero ISL, Thapa was key to Chennaiyin’s revival under Owen Coyle, which culminated in a loss to ATK FC in the 2019-20 Hero ISL final.

“This news is a breath of fresh air for me and my family – especially whatever we have witnessed so far in this year. I would like to thank AIFF, all my teammates and coaching staff to help me achieve whatever I could. We have garnered some fantastic performances at the club front as well as for the national team last year, but we need to push harder to raise the bar and we can surely do that,” Thapa said.

Among other awardees, Blue Tigresses midfielder Sanju was adjudged as the 2019-20 AIFF Women’s Player of the Year following an excellent season in the Hero Indian Women’s League, while Ratanbala Devi was the 2019-20 Emerging Women’s Footballer of the Year. Both winners were selected by the women’s national team head coach Maymol Rocky along with AIFF Technical Director Isac Doru.

2019-20 AIFF AWARDS in full

2019-20 AIFF Men’s Footballer of the Year: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

2019-20 AIFF Women’s Player of the Year: Sanju

2019-20 AIFF Men’s Emerging Footballer of the Year: Anirudh Thapa

2019-20 AIFF Emerging Women’s Footballer of the Year: Ms. Ratanbala Devi

2019-20 AIFF Award for the Best Assistant Referee: Mr. P. Vaira-Muthu (from Tamil Nadu)

2019-20 AIFF Award for the Best Referee: Mr. L. Ajit Kumar Meetei (from Manipur)

Award for the Best Grassroots Development Programme: West Bengal (based on E-licence courses and Golden Baby Leagues)

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