Harpal Singh Bedi
New Delhi: Ace goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu, and mid-fielder Sanju have been named the AIFF man and woman players of the year (2019-20) respectively.
Gurpreet is the second goalkeeper after Subrata Paul in 2009 to be named the AIFF Player of the Year while Women’s team midfielder Sanju had an excellent season; Midfielder Anirudh Thapa and Ratanbala Devi were declared emerging man and woman Footballer of the Year Award. Gurpreet and Anirudh Thapa were elected winners on the basis of votes from Hero Indian Super League and Hero I-League club coaches.
Sanju and Ratanbala Devi were selected by Women’s National Team Head Coach Maymol Rocky in consultation with AIFF Technical Director Isac Doru Gurpreet said he was thrilled to win this award .“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.” “Huge thanks go to AIFF and everyone who has supported and helped me relentlessly to help me achieve this today”.
The 28-year-old who received the Arjuna Award last year, added “Garnering the all-important draw against Asian Champions Qatar in Doha, eleven clean sheets in last Hero Indian Super League edition, winning the Golden Glove award could not have been possible without the team.”
Anirudh described the news as ” a breath of fresh air for me and my family — especially whatever we have witnessed so far in this year. I would like to thank AIFF, all my teammates and coaching staff to help me achieve whatever I could.
“We have garnered some fantastic performances at the club front as well as for the National team last year but we need to push harder to raise the bar and we can surely do that,” Thapa said adding “That fact that I was voted by coaches from the clubs makes this all the more special
Reacting to the announcement Sanju said “Personally, it’s a big milestone for me. This Award is the proof that all the hard work that we have been doing over the last few years has indeed paid off. I would like to thank AIFF for all the exposure that we have got to grow and to improve ourselves. I’d also like to thank the seniors in our team. All of them have been an immense help to me and have helped me cope with the rigours of international football.
Ratanbala said, “This is a happy moment in my life, indeed. I’ve seen some of my teammates bag this award in the previous years, and it is really nice to win it myself this time round. The way our team has grown over the last couple of years is simply phenomenal. I would like to thank the AIFF, my coaches and all my teammates for helping we win this award. This will provide further motivation for us to push ahead in the future.”
AIFF Award for the Best Referee was won by L. Ajit Kumar Meetei from Manipur, while P. Vairamuthu from Tamil Nadu was named the winner of the 2019-20 AIFF Award for the Best Assistant Referee.
“I extend my heartiest congratulations to all the winners. We are really proud of them. They are surely an inspiration for the entire football fraternity in India,” AIFF President Mr. Praful Patel averred.
The 2019-20 AIFF Award for the Best Grassroots Development Programme went to the Indian Football Association (West Bengal).HSB