With a few more days for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 to kick-off, Central Defender Sandesh Jhingan, one of the key figures in India’s rise in FIFA Rankings in the last few years feels the “onus is totally on us.” In an interview, Jhingan spoke to www.the-aiff.com about India’s chances in the tournament, balancing his life as a footballer and poet, the most challenging team in the group stage, and even admitted to him crying when India lost to Bahrain in 2011. EXCERPTS:
How are you and the rest of the boys feeling ahead of the tournament?
We are really pumped up for the Asian Cup since we qualified. Since then, the priority had been to stay fit and be in good form to get into the final list of 23 for us to get the call-up.
Did you watch the 2011 edition of the AFC Asian Cup?
Off-course I did. In 2011, I was a kid. I remember watching the Asian Cup match against Bahrain and I cried after we lost. We had played very well and deserved a much better result. The performance of the Indian team in that tournament fuelled my desire to make sure we qualified for the tournament once again and me be a part of it.
Do you feel it’s a realistic dream to go to the second round?
It's going to be tough, but not impossible. We have to stick to our plan and perform as the coach wants us to. We have to keep showing the unity which has made us stand out. If we do that, we can grind out the results we need.
Amongst Thailand, UAE and Bahrain, which team do you feel will be most challenging?
UAE is the host team and I feel they will be tough to face. But I believe that the onus is all on us. If any team is over-confident or not at the top of its game, they can be beaten. If you are prepared as a team and focused on the job at hand, you can make the game tough for the opponents.
Does Sandesh Jhingan, the defender, often seek help from Sandesh Jhingan, the poet?
Poetry helps me calm down a lot and cope with the hectic life of a footballer. To be honest I try to avoid writing while we are playing as it takes a lot from me emotionally. While I'm in a tournament, I avoid reading or writing poetry.
How is your chemistry with coach Stephen Constantine?
I have to thank him for giving me my debut for the National team. That happened after I had spent two years on the bench. It was a huge moment for me. I have a good bonding with him and I fondly remember when we first met in Guwahati in 2015.
He also helped me improve on my weaknesses. Under his guidance, I feel I have come a long way as a player. I know what he wants from me as a player and as a person.