India's Sandesh Jhingan to play in Croatian football league

The ATK Mohun Bagan defender has signed up for HNK Sibenik, which competes in the Croatian top-tier league Prva HNL.

By Ubaid Parkar

Sandesh Jhingan will become the first Indian national team footballer to play in the Croatian top-tier league Prva HNL after completing a move to HNK Sibenik, the club announced on Wednesday.

The burly defender played for ATK Mohun Bagan last season in the Indian Super League. Before that, he spent six seasons with Kerala Blasters in the ISL.

Sandesh Jhingan, 28, finished runners-up twice in the ISL, including last season when ATKMB went down 2-1 to Mumbai City FC in the final. He was also named India’s footballer of the year last month.

HNK Sibenik, coached by Spaniard Mario Rosas, returned to the premier division of the Croatian league last season and finished sixth, just two positions below qualification to European competitions.

“We are very happy to have Sandesh with us,” Francisco Cardona, CEO of HNK Sibenik, said. “We expect good things from him as we have followed him on different platforms where we were able to see his past performances. Although we know the adaptation process might take him a few weeks, we are confident that with his quality and leadership, he will become an important member of the team.”

Sandesh Jhingan, who has earned 40 caps for India, is already in Croatia. HNK Sibenik’s next match is on Monday against Rijeka. After five matches, Sibenik is currently in eighth place in the 10-team league. The season ends in May.

“I think I am at a stage of my career where I really want to test myself at the highest level possible and I think this is the perfect platform for me,” said Sandesh Jhingan.

Sandesh Jhingan shot to fame in 2014 having won both the AIFF and ISL’s Emerging player award that year. He made his senior India debut the following year and has been one of the core members of the national team. Jhingan also led the Indian football team on a few occasions.

Jhingan, an Arjuna awardee, was an integral part of the team that qualified directly for the third round of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers. The campaign included a historic draw against Asian champions Qatar.