New Delhi [India], September 25 (ANI): Indian football team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and midfielder Sanju are the winners of the 2019-20 AIFF Men's Footballer of the Year Award and the AIFF Women's Footballer of the Year Award respectively.
This is the first time Gurpreet has received this prestigious award, and in the process, he became the second goalkeeper after Subrata Paul in 2009 to be named the AIFF Player of the Year. The Blue Tigers custodian was elected as the winner on the basis of votes from Indian Super League and I-League club coaches.
"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," Gurpreet said in a statement.
"Garnering the all-important draw against Asian Champions Qatar in Doha, eleven clean sheets in last Indian Super League edition, winning the Golden Glove award could not have been possible without the team. A big thank you to all Indian Super League and I-League club coaches who have thought I'm worthy of receiving this award. I'll try my best to live up to the expectations," he added.
The 28-year-old had also received the Arjuna Award last year.
Meanwhile, midfielder Sanju was selected after an excellent season; while Ratanbala Devi was the winner of the 2019-20 Emerging Women's Footballer of the Year Award. Both the winners were selected by Women's national team head coach Maymol Rocky in consultation with AIFF Technical Director Isac Doru.
"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. 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 rigors of international football. I'd also like to thank Maymol ma'am for allowing me the time and the opportunity to grow within the team and express myself on the pitch," Sanju said.
Furthermore, midfielder Anirudh Thapa was named as the AIFF 2019-20 Men's Emerging Footballer of the Year. He was also selected the winner on the basis of votes from ISL and I-League club coaches.
The 2019-20 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 Praful Patel said.
Meanwhile, the 2019-20 AIFF Award for the Best Grassroots Development Programme went to the Indian Football Association (West Bengal). (ANI)