Joining BFC was one of my better decisions I have made in life, admits Sunil Chhetri

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ISL

Joining BFC was one of my better decisions I have made in life, admits Sunil Chhetri

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SportsCafe Desk

04/16/2018

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri has asserted that going to BFC was one of the "better decisions" he has made in his life. In a recent interview, he has talked about his personal life, his journey as a player and how his game has changed after he signed for the Bangalore franchise five years ago.

Chhetri is definitely one of the best talents India has ever produced. He has proved himself at all levels, be it at the club level or while sporting the national team colours. He recently guided BFC to the semi-final of the Super Cup with a hat-trick against Neroca FC. With his professional life going no less than perfect, he has now opened up about his personal life as well. 

“I’ve married somebody who I knew for 14 years. So, I’m just living with a friend. All through my ups and downs in football, from winning the I-League to losing the ISL final, she has been a source of great support. Nothing has changed barring the fact that we can now spend more time with each other. She lives in Bengaluru with me. When I travel, she goes back to Kolkata. She juggles it perfectly,” Chhetri told TOI in an interview.

Chhetri has now been in the BFC for five seasons where he has witnessed both the highs and lows that Indian football has to offer. Having scored 14 goals for BFC in the 4th season of ISL, he became top scorer Indian of the league. He has gelled with the team quite perfectly from the beginning and that bond can be seen on the pitch as well. 

“This has been one of the best signings of my life, with due respect to all clubs. Joining BFC five years back was one of the better decisions I have made in life. Right from our owner (Parth Jindal) to ball boys, there’s always a positive synergy all around. I’m very happy to be part of all this,” he explained

Sunil has played most of his footballing career as a striker. However, he has explained how signing for BFC has changed him as a player. Having played in different positions has helped him in becoming in more of an all-round player, which has helped him grow as a player and have a better understanding of the game. 

“I’m no longer a striker now. When I signed up for BFC, then-coach Ashley Westwood wanted me to play on the left as an attacking midfielder. I was not sure initially but I believed in his vision. For the first six-seven games, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was like a headless chicken. But he kept backing me. Eventually what he (Westwood) did was just wonderful and it helped me grow as a player. I started realizing the nuances of defending. I think I’m now a better defender and a better game-reader than five years ago. (Current BFC coach) Albert Roca has also added a few dimensions to my game. I’m not a winger as such, but am very happy to be a different player now. My age and experience have helped me grow into a more all-round player,” said the Indian striker.

With his age in the early 30’s, the Indian skipper is not even close to thinking about retirement. He has insisted that he is enjoying his game and is working hard in each and every training session and wants to stay focused and contribute as much as he can to the team's cause. 

“No way. The day I think I’m not enjoying the game and contributing the way I would like to, I’ll hang up my boots. It may happen tomorrow or five years from now, who knows! I’m the fastest and the fittest now. It’s a good thought that I’m in the 30s and people are still saying I’m contributing to the game. At this age, it’s very important to be around with people who push you, who don’t let you relax. Even now, I burst my lungs to beat Udanta Singh, who is the fastest in the team (BFC). In training, I try to score against Gurpreet (Sandhu), who is certainly the best goalkeeper now. That’s how your surrounding helps you grow and stay focused. I’m lucky to be around people who always try to win and challenge each other to be the best,” he said.

Currently, Chhetri is the all-time top scorer for the Indian national football team with 56 goals for the country. He has more international goals than Brallian captain Neymar and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski. With India due to play in next year’s Asian Cup, analyzing the current national team and the team of 2011, he said, “In 2011, we had a very stable team. Apart from me, Anwar (Ali), Mangi (Gouramangi Singh) and Subrata Paul, everyone else was already a pro. BhaichungBhutia, Sameer Naik, Mahesh Gawli and Rennedy Singh — they were all established pros, having played for the country for many years. But we are a younger and hungrier team now. Apart from myself, Paul and Jeje, the others are young and trying to establish themselves in the team. What’s important is that it’s a huge opportunity for all these young players. They must start working and focusing on the tournament right now. It must be top priority. It’s like the World Cup for us. If you want to see a steady growth of our country, you must play top teams regularly. This is how you will know where you stand in comparison to other top teams.”

Talking about his regrets in life he said,” There are a few, but nothing big. Like the loss to Chennaiyin FC in the ISL 4 final (last month). But I always believe that you are here to give your cent per cent. This is what is in your hands, the rest can take care of itself.”

Finally, he tells about the players he draws inspiration from and the lessons he learns from them. 

“There are many more like Leander Paes, Gianluigi Buffon, Javier Zanetti et al. The margin of success is so small that you have to be extremely disciplined. The older you get, the more disciplined you have to be. This is the lesson you take when you watch these athletes. Lot of players lose hope because of lack of motivation. These athletes give me hope as well as motivation to push the boundary further.”

When asked to pick out the best strikers in football, Chhetri replied, "Ronaldo (Brazilian), Thierry Henry, Hernan Crespo, Sergio Aguero, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic." He was, however, quick to add, "I have kept Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo out of the list because they are not strikers in the proper sense of the term”. On the question of the top five Indian strikers that he has played with he said, "Bhaichung Bhutia, I.M. Vijayan, AshimBiswas (in his prime), Jeje Lalpekhlua, and Robin Singh."

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