New Delhi, May 13: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) nominated the Indian national football team’s central defender Sandesh Jhingan and women’s team striker N Bala Devi for the renowned Arjuna Award.
Following the guidelines of the Sports Ministry, the AIFF was asked to send nominations for this year’s sports awards. The federation decided to hand out the names of Jhingan and Bala due to their consistency in recent years.
“We have decided to send the names of Sandesh and Bala Devi for the Arjuna Award keeping their consistent showings. So, it’s one male and one female,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das noted.
Making his debut in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in 2015, he became one of the most significant players in the team. Due to his physical strength, aerial ability, and willingness to put the body on the line led him to be one of the best defenders in Indian football.
The 26-year-old is also a most-capped player for Indian Super League franchise Kerala Blasters’. Since his debut, the growth and maturity have been so consistent that he was handed him the captaincy when Chhetri was not around due to injuries. He has so far worn the captain’s armband on several occasions.
Bala Devi hailing from Manipur scripted history when she was signed by renowned Scottish Women’s Premier League side Rangers FC an 18-month contract. With this, she turned out to be the first Indian woman to play outside the country professionally.
Devi had scored a total of 8 goals in 5 matches in SAFF Championship in 2010 including five goals in India's opening match of the tournament against Bhutan from three matches. Even in the 2014 SAFF Championship, she finished with sixteen goals in only five matches. Due to her performance in the tournament, Devi was awarded the Women's Player of the Year award by AIFF and also awarded the 2015 Indian Women's Player of the Year the very next year.
In the 2016 South Asian Games, the 30-year-old scored 3 goals in 5 matches. Due to her vast experience, she has also captained the women's team in the 2016 SAFF Women's Championship with clinching the title first time as a captain.