Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sanju Yadav named best in Indian football

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and midfielder Sanju Yadav were honoured for quality performances in the 2019-20 season with the AIFF Player of the Year awards.

By Naveen Peter

Indian national team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and midfielder Sanju Yadav have been named the All India Football Federation Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season in men’s and women’s category, respectively.

This is the first time that the Punjab-born Sandhu has bagged the AIFF’s annual award, thereby becoming only the second goalkeeper to be bestowed the honour after Subrata Pal in 2009. The award was constituted in 1992.

The winners were decided based on a poll conducted among the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League coaches.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who plays for Bengaluru FC in the domestic league, enjoyed a fine season both at the international and the domestic level.

Turning up for the national team, the shot-stopper led the Indian football team to their only win at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup against Thailand at the start of the year. Later he came up with an inspiring show that saw the national team hold Asian champions Qatar to a goalless draw in their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier.

The script was no different at the domestic level too as Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was one of the vital cogs of the Bengaluru FC team that made it to their third semi-final appearance in the ISL. 

“There was always a desire to reach this point and this is an award which I have always looked up to. Chhetri bhai (Sunil Chhetri) has won it so many times and I have always thought when I can be worthy enough to win it,” Gurpreet Singh Sandhu told the AIFF

In the ISL, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was in top form as he managed to keep 11 clean sheets in his 19 appearances with a save per cent of 77.77.

“Garnering the all-important draw against Asian Champions Qatar in Doha, 11 clean sheets in the last ISL edition, winning the Golden Glove award could not have been possible without the team,” said the 28-year-old Sandhu, who spent three years with Norwegian club Stabaek FC.

Meanwhile, 22-year-old midfielder Sanju Yadav too enjoyed a stellar season that included a title win with the national team at the 2019 SAFF Women’s Championships and the Indian Women’s League (IWL) crown with Gokulam Kerala FC.

“Personally, it's a big milestone for me. This award is proof that all the hard work that we have been doing over the last few years has indeed paid off,” said Sanju Yadav. 

Other notable winners include Anirudh Thapa who was adjudged the best young talent in the country among men while Ratanbala Devi won the same honour among women.

List of award winners in Indian football:

2019-20 AIFF Men’s Footballer of the Year: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

2019-20 AIFF Women’s Player of the Year: Sanju Yadav

2019-20 AIFF Men’s Emerging Footballer of the Year: Anirudh Thapa.

2019-20 AIFF Emerging Women’s Footballer of the Year: Ratanbala Devi.

2019-20 AIFF Award for the Best Assistant Referee: P Vairamuthu

2019-20 AIFF Award for the Best Referee: L Ajit Kumar Meetei

2019-20 AIFF Award for the Best Grassroots Development Programme: West Bengal