Kerala Blasters defensive rock Sandesh Jhingan believes the Indian Super League has given Indian football its face - something that has been missing for way too long.
The India international was one of the most influential players in the the ISL last year, with the player's versatility and work ethic praised by one and all.
Jhingan, though, heaped praise on the Indian Super League. "This was what Indian football was missing for so long. So, what ISL did was give Indian football a face, and make it more popular," Jhingan said in an interview to Star Sports.
Kerala Blasters had an impressive outing in the inaugural edition of the football league last year, as they went on to make it to the final. However, the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned side could not lift the title with Atletico de Kolkata beating them with a last-minute winner.
Jhingan, who was given the ISL Emerging player of the league award last year, admitted that losing in the final at the DY Patil stadium in Mumbai was one of the most bitter moments of his career. However, some inspirational words from cricket legend Tendulkar gave him the much-needed motivation to bounce back.
"I almost had tears in my eyes as we were so close to winning the trophy [last year], and then I was feeling so sad," Jhingan added. "But then, Sachin Tendulkar came up to me and said those golden words – 'it took me six attempts to win the world cup'.
"And that really motivated me.
"I think its a great feeling, especially when you do the hard work, and get the fruit from it. I do believe in 'never let blame and praise attack the poise of your mind.'"
Jhingan started each of the 14 games for Blasters last year, and the defender received plaudits for being a dominant figure in every department of the game, as his performances were not just limited to good defending.
"I just enjoying playing football. When you are enjoying football, you love to score, love to defend, love to assist, you want to work hard," Jhingan said.
"As long as I am enjoying playing, I can also play as a goalkeeper or a striker, and thats why everyone says i'm versatile.
"The first thing is you need to believe. You cannot say that I am from this town which doesn't support football or I don't belong from a footballing state. But you have to keep believeing."