Sunil Chhetri still has a lot to offer Indian football, says IM Vijayan
IM Vijayan believes that veteran Sunil Chhetri still has a lot to give Indian football, and finds the frequent speculation about him retiring, amusing. India started their AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers journey with a 2-0 victory over Cambodia, with Indian skipper Chhetri scoring a brace.
In the team's second encounter, Chhetri delivered the team's first goal versus Afghanistan, a fantastic free-kick. Despite being 37, Vijayan feels the national team captain still has a lot to offer.
"Sunil is a marvel. He is a personality and a player that all players should emulate. His goal in the match against Afghanistan was of excellent quality. All youngsters need to see and learn how easily he handles open chances. I laugh when the media asks about his retirement. With such a level of fitness playing with such sincerity, he still has a lot to gain. As the Indian team coach said, he still has a lot of goals left to score. One of them could be from the World Cup," said Vijayan.
With a total of 84 international goals, Chhetri has only three fewer goals than Lionel Messi and is now ranked third among active goal scorers in the world. Vijayan, who was a member of the Indian national team from 1992 to 2003, scored 29 goals.
He also praised Sahal Abdul Samad, who scored the game-winning goal against Afghanistan, stating that his efforts will encourage the youth. In India's 2-1 triumph against Afghanistan in a third-round qualifier, Sahal came off the substitutes to score in the added time.
"Sahal is a source of pride for the younger generation of Indians and Malayalees. Sahal scored within seconds of entering the field at the most crucial moment. This is an example of a very good reflex action which is the most necessary thing in football. He is sure to rise in a way that will make Indian football proud," Vijayan, said.
At the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday, more than 44,000 people celebrated Sahal's goal. Sandesh Jhingan's assistance with the backline marshaling pleased Vijayan as well. "The team has done very well in the last two matches. Especially in defense. The performance of Sandesh is commendable. He is performing well after regaining his fitness level. His presence is an asset to the Indian team," Vijayan concluded.