Indian football’s torchbearer and talismanic captain for the past 10 years, Sunil Chhetri, reflected on his career on Thursday, saying that “it is going to end soon”, but added that he is “nowhere for the next few”. Going “years.”
The 37-year-old, who overtook the international goalscorer Pele with his 79th strike in the ongoing SAFF Championship match against Maldives on Wednesday, got philosophical with his approach to the game clearly dissecting the final leg . His wonderful career.
“It is a fact that it (his career) is going to end soon” said Chhetri and asked himself to enjoy every moment of it.
“Now I have a very simple mantra. Stand up friend, there is very little time left, very few games are left, go quiet and give your best. Thoda time pe khatam ho wala hai (I tell myself) that there is very little time left, very few games left, go quiet and give your best. It’s going to end in no time),” he said as he found himself amid the ups and downs during his illustrious career. How to lift
“Stop crying, stop rejoicing, stop over-celebrating, stop putting yourself down because this will all be over very soon. Right now I’ll pick myself up, go out there and try to give my best because I know It’s a fact that it’s going to end. Soon.”
But in the same breath, he made it clear that the inevitable would not happen for the next few years.
“SC11 isn’t going anywhere for the next few years. So just relax,” he said.
The third-best international goalscorer among active players after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi said he prefers to stay away from outside noise as there are not many matches left in his illustrious career.
He made his international debut in 2005 against Pakistan in Quetta under head coach Sukhwinder Singh and broke all possible records in Indian football.
He has played a record 124 matches for India in his career spanning 16 years. He has been the poster boy of Indian football since the retirement of former captain Bhaiching Bhutia in 2011.
“Gali khata hai, ya people tarif karte hai… Whatever I try to forget, I go out there and try to do my best. Missing, I’ll miss goals, scoring I’ll score but this All we’ll talk about at once. Done.
“Because I don’t regret that I could have done this and that. I want to do everything now.”
When asked about overtaking the great Pele, Chhetri said, “Everyone who knows football knows that there is no comparison (with Pele). I am happy to play and score for my country. That’s all I want,” he said.
“Very little footage of the great man (Pele) but from what I can see, he was a dynamic and powerful footballer. Football was different, the sport was brutal at the time.
“Despite that he has scored so many goals and it speaks of his extremely great achievement.”
Chhetri said his short-term goal is to help India qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup in China. He has played in the 2011 and 2019 editions of the continent’s showpiece event.
He admitted that his team did not live up to the expectations in the first two drawn matches of the SAFF Championship against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka but gradually improved.
“It was a messy start for us in the tournament. Not scoring against Sri Lanka was unacceptable. We missed a lot of chances against Nepal as well. We weren’t playing against Qatar and Japan and the UAE of the world,” he said. .
“To beat a tough team like Maldives in Maldives and that too in a hostile environment (domestic fan support) was the way we needed to play.
“We are dominant in this area and I think we are peaking at the right time and we can reach the finals,” Chhetri said.
Chhetri picked Manveer Singh, India’s first goal scorer against Maldives, as his possible successor in goal scoring.
“I am counting on Manveer when I am done. He is a beast, a machine, in every training test we have, he will be in the top three.
“The problem is that he plays on the right side for ATK Mohun Bagan in the ISL but as No. 9 in the national team. He is young and so he is unable to adapt (from one position to another) and so many times He stops. He will learn from experience. He is our weapon.”
Among others, Chhetri picked Apuia, Rahim Ali, Anirudh Thapa and Liston Colaco as future goal-scorers.
“The country needs better players than Sunil Chhetri. We have to develop and be better than ever. In future we will have better scorers than Sunil Chhetri, that is expected and we have to be patient.”