ISL 2017/18: An open letter to Sandesh Jhingan from an Indian football fan
I have been meaning to write a letter to you for a long time now but it wasn't until today that I actually sat down to pen my thoughts.
Before beginning, I would like to say that I have keenly followed your progress, right from your days at United Sikkim, when you helped the team realise their dream of qualifying for the top division and I have seen the amount of passion you bring in to the game.
My interest was piqued when you were called up to the national team, back in 2013. Unfortunately, injuries kept you out at that time and I had to wait almost two years to see you in the national colours, but by then, of course, you had made your mark with Kerala Blasters in the ISL.
Hailing from Chandigarh, it must not have been easy for you. With aspirations of becoming a professional footballer, life must have been difficult for you as compared to those hailing from other parts of the country. But you made it, you made it right to the top of Indian football.
Now, some three years after making your ISL debut, you are the captain of a team with which people identify you. More than that, people see in you a future captain of the national team. Why? Because you have the capability, the leadership qualities, and most importantly, the passion. Everyone can see that.
Your warrior-like demeanour on the football pitch is an inspiration for many. From putting your body on the line to stop an onrushing forward to throwing yourself in the air to block a fierce shot, nothing fazes you. You sweat it out on the pitch, you hardly mind taking a few blows and losing some blood for the cause and I believe that's what keeps you going.
That's the kind of dedication one wants to see from a leader.
Over the years, you have built a special connection with the fans. The performances, the unbridled passion or the emotional gestures, whatever it was, you have made a special place in the fans' hearts. And, you'll forever be there.
Yes, there may be some disappointing results. In fact, your team were not doing too well towards the start of this season, but that happens - this is football - and the fans understand that.
Nonetheless, human beings are known to play the blame game. Your former coach, Rene Meulensteen, blamed you for the team's collective failure, accused you of horrible things. Your dedication was questioned.
And, while some people lashed out, a scarier response would have been indifference. Remember, a majority of the fans came out in your support. Your fans, they were in pain. They cared.
So, take strength from that. Harness all the emotions, rebuild yourself, and go again in pursuit of the elusive ISL title. And may you succeed with the Indian national team as well and help them to unprecedented glory. Good luck.
An Indian football fan.