India defender Sandesh Jhingan, who recently ended his six-year-long association with Indian Super League (ISL) side Kerala Blasters, went down the memory lane to way back in 2014 when the first season of ISL was held.
Jhingan, who was a part of the Kerala Blasters side that lost the final to ATK at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, recalled the heartbreak he felt after the massive loss and how the team's then co-owner Sachin Tendulkar soothed that pain.
"More I say it feels less for him (Tendulkar). After losing to ATK in the final of the first edition of ISL, we were so heartbroken. I was so drained and upset. He came to me and calmly said: Sandesh, it took me 6 attempts to win the World Cup. You can't lose your heart after losing it in the first go."
"His positivity is so contagious. When he's around you, you will feel cheered up, positive. His calmness is something which every one of us must take a lesson from. That's why he's a legend, a myth. Kudos to you, Sachin-paaji!," Jhingan said in a chat with AIFF TV that was streamed on the official Facebook handle of the Indian Football Team.
Jhingan further spoke about the struggles the Indian men's football team has been through in the past few years and credited ISL for the growth they have seen.
"Rising from 173 to 96 in the FIFA rankings, we have travelled a long way till now. From playing tough games against Nepal to giving tough time to Qatar in Qatar -- Indian Football has experienced a lot in recent times."
"I believe ISL deserves the due credit. We shared the dressing room with players whom we looked up during our childhood. They were untouchable when we were kids. That has provided us with the motivational boost."
He even recalled those days and narrated how he got to learn and educate himself playing with European footballing greats like Wes Brown, Aaron Hughes and many more while during his stint with Kerala Blasters FC.
"We never realised how good we were until we played against quality opponents. The foreign exposure games left a huge impact on our recent transition. Games against PR China, Qatar, Puerto Rico and mostly the matches in AFC Asian Cup helped us gain the boost in a big way."
"The current batch is very ambitious. Since making debut with Pritam and all in 2015, I have seen this batch through thick and thins. The Thapas and the Sahals have come up and the squad has grown from strength to strength."
Referring to the match against Qatar in Doha, he maintained: "Even when we walked out of the dressing room it didn't cross our mind that we can't do well against Qatar in Qatar. We got in there, stuck in there and got the results. Everybody (in the team) wants the result. Everyone is equally ambitious. Down the line after 100 years, people will remember this batch."
"2026 is not very far. It's not only those 23 players and support staff who contribute to the team's performance -- it's every single Indian who have to stick together, no matter what," he expressed. "Till now, we have stuck together, that's why we have achieved whatever we could have until now. Let's do it, together," Jhingan added.