In the present day scenario, if there’s one name that is almost synonymous with the Indian men’s football team, then it’s that of Sunil Chhetri. With the recent changes in management, it can be argued that the national team is going through a phase of transition, but Chhetri has continued to be that one rock that refuses to budge, whose calmness and leadership has helped lay the foundation for a better tomorrow for Indian football. National coach Stephen Constantine proclaimed that Chhetri is the talisman of the team.
“I just try to do the right things. When I was young, I learnt a lot from my seniors by looking at their game, their conduct. That’s the right way. If I keep lecturing the players, a time will come when nobody would want to listen to me. The easier way is to be a good professional. Be punctual, eat the right stuff, be a good example on the pitch and hope the younger ones are going to follow. That’s how I learnt and that’s the way I want to conduct myself,” Chhetri told leading national daily Times of India on Sunday.
“The younger ones were more cheerful, which is understandable. We were really happy. It was a great win. It’s not every day that we play a much higher-ranked team. It was a handsome win. We conceded a penalty early on but we came strongly back in the game. It was good to have four different scorers. A couple of debutants were also there. There were a lot of positives from the Puerto Rico friendly. In the last 8-9 games, we have done really well as a team. We need to stay grounded. We are not the best team in the world. We are just improving and we need to make sure that we keep improving.”, he added.
He went ahead to defend Constantine’s management of Indian football so far, “Stephen is not on a mission to hand a debut to everyone. It’s the given scenario. When he came, a lot of senior players were on the verge of leaving. It was a transition period. It’s not that he enjoys bringing in fresh recruits. It’s just the way things are right now. This way, the pool gets bigger. It’s good but we are in a transition period and this is going to happen.”
Chhetri had a hand in 3 of the 4 goals scored by team India against Puerto Rico in their 4-1 victory with 1 goal and 2 assists. Chhetri further claimed that he’ll be happy to play wherever Constantine tells him to.