The Indian football star hopes to thrive under the added pressure of expectation that has come along with the recognition.
Indian football ace Sandesh Jhingan believes that the Arjuna Award brings with it an added sense of responsibility towards the national team.
The 27-year-old central defender, who was one of the 27 Arjuna Award recipients on Saturday, said that the honour was a recognition of his hard work over the years, but added that the work was only half done.
“People who know me know how much I crave to be under pressure. I thrive under responsibility,” the 27-year-old Jhingan told the All India Football Federation.
“I always prefer to be that guy in the room with all the responsibility than one sitting at the corner. The recognition of my performances makes me extremely happy.”
Sandesh Jhingan has been a regular fixture in the Indian football team ever since his debut in 2015.
The towering defender has played a key role in the team’s recent surge at the international stage that saw them qualify for the AFC Asian Cup, the UEFA Euros equivalent in Asia, since 2011.
Having grown in strength with the team, the Chandigarh-born Jhingan said that his goals as a professional have also evolved over the years.
“Initially, the dream was just to get into the national team. But you set different goals as you grow up, and the Arjuna Award was one of that,” said Sandesh Jhingan, who has played 36 matches for the Indian football team, scoring four goals.
Our ultimate dream as a nation is to qualify for the FIFA World Cup but there are certain steps which we need to climb on the pathway – like being regular for the AFC Asian Cup, breaking into the top 100, then into the top 50, winning tournaments at home, and abroad.
“Physically and mentally, you need to be in sync. As players, we need to stay hungry,” he pointed out.
While he would have hoped for a trip to the Rashtrapati Bhavan for an audience with the Indian President to receive his award, the prevailing COVID-19 situation in the country meant Sandesh Jhingan had to be content with a virtual ceremony.
The Indian ace, however, had no complaints considering the circumstances.
“The Secretariat House in Chandigarh is a grand place too,” he added. “As kids, we grew up looking at it with awe from outside. So getting into it -- that too to receive the Arjuna Award is huge – that’s my happiness,” Jhingan said.
“But life does not end here. The fact that I have not been able to meet the honourable President motivates me to do more, and get an appointment with him in the near future,” Jhingan signed off.