Stimac provided constant support: Sandesh Jhingan | Football News – Times of India

PANAJI: When India took a pause during the first phase of national lockdown, Sandesh Jhingan kept going. Back home after a rehabilitation stint in Italy, the India defender’s plans were temporarily halted due to the lockdown in March. Like everywhere else, the threat of Covid-19 in this part of the world was real, but Jhingan had other worries.
So, when India was sleeping, he was up on his feet. There was work to do in the gymnasium early morning, and muscles to strengthen. For a footballer, recovering from an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury is never easy and often scary. Jhingan, though, is made of sterner stuff. “I’ve trained hard and find myself in the best shape of my life right now. I have never felt so good,” said Jhingan, speaking with the confidence of a player who trains three times a day.
The sturdy defender has been on the road to recovery for a long time now. Injured during a training game against NorthEast United FC in October last year, he was cleared to take the field in February itself. Coach Igor Stimac also gave him the go ahead to join the national camp in Bhubaneswar. But just when it seemed like he would make a comeback, coronavirus put a full stop on all sports activities.
“I’ve always played for the national team with a lot of pride. India is a country of 1.3 billion people, but only a handful get the chance to represent their country. I want to fight for my place in the national team,” said Jhingan. There’s no doubt that Stimac would lay out the red carpet for him. The Croatian coach rates the 27-year-old highly, telling TOI once that if he wanted to pick one player who needs to get injured, Jhingan would be the last on that list.
It’s also true that in his absence, India suffered two damaging draws against Afghanistan and Bangladesh in the Fifa World Cup 2022 qualifiers. Once he’s back, Stimac’s worries at the back could miraculously disappear.
“I am thankful to Stimac for his constant support. I’ve never felt so comfortable speaking to a coach. More than a fine coach, he’s a wonderful human being,” said Jhingan, whose last official game was a memorable goalless draw against Asian champions Qatar.
Stimac’s ‘other side’ came to the fore when the World Cup bronze medal winner showed up at the hospital to inquire about Jhingan. The defender had just undergone an operation on his knee in Mumbai, and when he had just regained consciousness, he was told that the coach was on his way.
“He was the only one who showed up when I got operated. He was in the city for a television stint, but after a three-hour flight from Delhi, he drove for almost three more hours to get to the hospital. Then he had to drive back another three hours, thanks to the traffic,” said the former Kerala Blasters captain.

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