Sunil Chhetri: "It’s all about passing at a high intensity"

Two days after equaling Bhaichung Bhutia’s record of 42 International Goals, the Indian Captain in an exclusive interview with preferred to reflect back on his stint with the National Team. He also spoke about his emotions, thanked his Teammates, and recollected his first call to the National Camp, informed about his “increased “work rate” and much more EXCERPTS:

What are your emotions having equaled Bhaichung Bhutia’s record of 42 International Goals?

I don’t have any emotions. I consider myself to being lucky to have played for my Country. It’s a rare honour – very few have achieved it. Right from my first International Match to the last International Friendly against Philippines, I have never felt any urge to beat anyone or chase any landmark. I never planned for any such thing. I am just happy to have scored against Philippines.

When you look back, what runs through your mind?

Sunil Chhetri, India
I love to look back and remember all those Players with whom I have played. And let me clarify that it’s not that I’m doing it now as I have equaled Bhaichung-bhai’s achievement. On the contrary, I do it quite often. Without their support I wouldn’t have been what I am today. It was they who made me a better Player and welcomed me despite being a youngster when I first got my National Camp call.
And mind you, all of them were established Players at that time. There was Bhaichung-bhai himself, Renedy-bhai (Singh), Deepak-bhai (Mondal), Climax-bhai (Lawrence), Mahesh-bhai (Gawli), Nandy-da (Sandip) and so many of them. 
But I haven’t changed at all. Singing the National Anthem on the field is a rare honour which not all get. I am just too proud of that.

How do you try to guide the youngsters in the squad?

The same manner in which I was drafted in as an integral member of the squad. At present there isn’t any hierarchy in the Team as much there wasn’t any hierarchy in the National Team when I joined.

Whatever I learnt from my Seniors, I try to pass it on to the youngsters at the moment. I was lucky to have played against a lovely bunch of Players. If ten years from now the present set of youngsters go out and say that they were lucky to play with me, I’d know that I was successful in my endeavour.

The Team have always performed well when they have stayed united off the Field. It’s always about trust.

What has Wim Koevermans brought to the National Team?

The new style which we are getting used to fast. Look at our practice sessions and matches and you’ll discover that it’s all about passing at a high intensity. In the last match against Philippines, we had plenty of good moments. We are a well knitted Team and to attain the level we aspire to, the boys need to be given time.

Obviously if most Clubs follow the same philosophy of play, the National Team will benefit. And if you look at the Airtel I-League, you’ll find there are quite a few Clubs who are following the same style of play.

Define your journey in 2013.

It has been a mixed year.

With the National Team, we couldn’t achieve the desired result. Despite being the much better team in the AFC Challenge Cup and in the SAFF Championship, we ended up on the losing side. We couldn’t convert our chances. So you can say we underperformed ourselves.

At the Club level, I won the last edition of the I-League with Churchill Brothers and am fully enjoying my stint with Bengaluru FC at the moment. My work rate has increased and, touch wood; I have been able to stay away from injuries.
Sunil Chhetri at a practice session in Siliguri for the national Team,

Do you have any more personal targets?

I prefer to take it step by step. People expect me to score every time I take the field. So I always feel the urge to improve with every training session. On the Field I keep challenging myself. That’s the reason I haven’t stuck to one single Club. I could have easily ended up as the ‘Son’ of a particular Club. But that’s not me.

On the field, the challenge has increased as I’m playing in different positions. In 2013 itself, I’ve played as a Striker, a withdrawn Striker and also on the left flank. And I tell you, the new bunch of boys is much fitter and faster. So there’s no place for relaxation.
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