The 37-year-old, Sunil Chhetri scored his 77th international goal on Sunday when he netted a late winner against Nepal in the 2021 SAFF Championship fixture.
Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri says he hopes to continue playing and scoring goals for the country in the “foreseeable future”. The 37-year-old scored his 77th international goal on Sunday when he netted a late winner against Nepal in the 2021 SAFF Championship fixture. It was a much needed victory for team India to keep themselves alive in the race to qualify for the final. It was Chhetri’s second goal of the tournament in three games and time again the talisman’s goal scoring prowess remains as good as ever. It is a testament to his dedication and consistency.
“I keep getting asked about my consistency, and I wish I had an answer. But the truth is, there is no blueprint. It’s more about wanting to turn up every single day and give it my best, which, thankfully, I’ve never fallen short of,” Chhetri told PTI after his latest heroics.
The prolific striker’s professional career has been more than two decades long and over the years he has played alongside a number of stars of Indian football like, Baichung Bhutia, Remedy singh, N.P. Pradeep etc.
“I have been extremely lucky to have played with some great footballers who don’t get enough credit. I’ve learned something from every single coach I have played for. It’s the coming together of many things — big and small — and I hope to keep doing it in the foreseeable future,” he added.
Chhetri is one of the most disciplined and hardworking sports personalities in the country.
“It might sound like a lie, but I’ve never given my future as a footballer any thought. Like I said, the one thing I probably do the best is wake up and turn up to train and play. I look forward to it, thoroughly enjoy it and haven’t ever wanted to stop doing it.
“My future plan with football is literally what my next training session will look like. I am fortunate enough to have a support system around me that makes sure I don’t need to think or worry about anything that isn’t football. It just makes it all the more easier to love what I do.”
Playing in his 123rd international match he scored his 77th goal for the national team, levelling with legendary Brazilian footballer Pele’s tally. He is now joint third with UAE’s Ali Mabkhout (77) on the list of highest scorers among active footballers. Cristiano Ronaldo tops the list with 112 goals to his name while Lionel Messi is second with 79.
“If there’s a trophy up for grabs, then I want to win it – it’s as simple as that. There’s not too many athletes or teams that are content with what’s in their trophy cabinet. I’m no different.
“On an individual level, I am not a big fan of statistics, milestones and accolades. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for all that I’ve got and achieved. But to win with my team — for country and club, that is everything.”
Like with any other Sport, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the plans of most football teams and the situation of India has been no different. The Blue Tigers didn’t have a proper training camp coming into the tournament. But thankfully the Bengaluru FC captain is glad to be playing at the moment.
“Ever since international football restarted after the pandemic we have been utilising every FIFA window. Unluckily, I missed out on the matches against Oman and UAE in March (after testing positive for COVID). Those are the kind of matches which Indian football needs.
“At the same time, I understand that getting good games is tough owing to all the restrictions that pandemic has brought along with it.”
India will be hosting the women’s AFC Asian Cup and FIFA U-17 World Cup the next year and Chhetri is happy that the women are getting more opportunities and exposure trips. On Sunday, the Indian women’s team won their first of two friendlies against Bahrain 5-0.
“What also pleases me is that the Indian ladies have been travelling on exposure tours in preparation for the forthcoming AFC Women’s Asian Cup, and it was only last night they beat Bahrain 5-0.
“Like I always say, we need to keep playing better opponents if we are to improve and measure where we are, and how much more we need to do.”