When you take a look back at the last decade of Indian football, the inevitable figure who has been the main factor of the uplifting of the beautiful game in India is none other than Sunil Chhetri. The front face of Indian football is our pride in the international stage. The striker from Secunderabad has achieved almost every possible honour a sportsperson can in the country. However, the inevitable arrives one day, as Chhetri is starting to believe that the day to hang his boots up is near.
After a decorated career spanning 14 years, the skipper feels that his retirement may soon be approaching. “I understand that I don’t have many games left to play for my nation,” the 35 year old said in an interview today.
Since his debut for the national team in 2005, Chhetri is India’s all time leading goalscorer, and has reached the top 5 highest goalscorers in the World. Currently tallied at 72 international goals, the Bengaluru FC captain has the second highest number of goals to his name in the world, just after Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, the Bengaluru FC captain is focused on the games that he still has at hand: “I need to work harder now. There’s no point in jumping the gun. Hence, personally I want to take one game at a time.”
The former Mohun Bagan star, who is currently the captain of Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL), wants to concentrate on improving his performance to pilot the Indian squad for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
“As a team, we need to win as many games as possible. The eventual aim is to qualify for AFC Asian Cup China 2023. We need to be consistently qualifying for the continental championships and there can be no compromise on that aspect.” Chhetri added.
Hailed by the team’s head coach Igor Štimac for having the physical abilities of a “29 year old”, Chhetri is counting on his compatriots to improve their game to qualify for China in 2023.
He continued: “The belief in the squad is unmistakable. There’s no reason why we can’t be in China.”
As the qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup are taking place, India is currently sitting on fourth place in Group E, with 3 points from 5 games. They will be facing the hosts Qatar in March.