Sunil Chhetri reflects on his journey from young player to captain
Sunil Chhetri, the captain of the Indian football team, spoke on his progression from a young player to the team's leader and recalled how he changed after being given captaincy. Chhetri first played in 2005, but it was in 2012 during the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup that he assumed the leadership role.
He remembered his character as a young player and how it all changed when he became captain.
"The day I was given the armband, it was in Malaysia by Bob Houghton, former head coach of the senior national team. There was an instant pressure because of what I was - a backbencher. Myself, Steven (Dias) and (NP) Pradeep made fun of the senior players, that was me. Everything was a prank and I was mischievous," Chhetri said on an episode of Let There Be Sports.
"But when I wore the armband, for the initial three-four games I started sitting ahead. That was me taking the pressure that I have become captain now. It's not these things, but doing the right stuff that you were doing before and being a little more thoughtful. It's not only you, it's the team now," he added.
The 38-year-old talked about setting an example and discussed how he had to alter his strategy after becoming captain.
"Before there was this mindset that I am Sunil Chhetri -- my dribble, my pass, my crossing, my goal. I would raise my hands and go home. Even if I received abuse, I would take them and go home. But now you are thinking about yourself as well, but also about the team. On and off the pitch. And when I forced myself to think this way earlier, I was scared. I told myself to relax, the job is still the same. Be a good example on the pitch and off the pitch," Chhetri said.
"More importantly, when there is a mistake, raise your hand and apologise. Because when the responsibilities come and you become a senior player, it becomes more difficult to say it was my mistake. That was what I learned when I became a leader, that it's okay, you are going to make a mistake. All the big ones have made it. And when the captain gets up and takes the blame, the whole morale (of the dressing room) changes," he added.