The bittersweet symphony of life could be summed up precisely in the journey of the Indian football team in AFC Asian Cup-2019, where the bravest effort of Sunil Chhetri couldn’t complete the fairytale as India knocked out in the group stage of the tournament following a 0-1 defeat against Bahrain.
Chhetri lead India into the Asian Cup after a long gap of eight years and crafted the perfect start with an outstanding 4-1 win against Thailand. Chhetri scored twice in the match and surpassed Lionel Messi and Didier Drogba in the international goal tally among the active footballers, remaining second only to Portugal’s maestro Cristiano Ronaldo.
India skipper has now scored 67 goals for his country in 107 Matches and also holds the record for highest number of international caps for the Blue Tigers alongside Baichung Bhutiya. Once dubbed as the ‘next Baichung’, Chhetri has now formed his own legacy. He is not only carrying the baton given by Bhutiya but also playing a crucial role in taking Indian football to new heights.
Chhetri is India’s ‘Mr. Football’ but according to him he is just a dreamer who once dreamt to play for his country and now dreaming to make football in India more and more professional. At this stage of his career, Chhetri (34) is not just leading the team on the ground but also setting an example for the younger generation to follow. He is still India’s best number 10 and fitter than any other young player in the country and despite his age, he isn’t looking to hang up his boots anytime soon.
In an interview with the Hindustan Times Chhetri said, “No reason to retire. One day there will be a No.10 who will be better than me. Till then, I think I can contribute.” Chhetri also confirmed that he wasn’t able to sleep after the shocking defeat against Bahrain. He said, “And I usually sleep a lot. After the win against Thailand, I was fairly confident we would qualify, so to absorb this is particularly difficult.”
For all what Chhetri has done and achieved, the major challenge lies in front of him as a senior player is to not just make team perform better but to create a team that can carry the dreams of young Indians, who see Sunil and his men as their Heroes, as their ideals.