I want to stay at BFC: Chhetri

A victory against Salgaocar FC at home on Sunday will see BFC emerge as National champion. An excited Sunil Chhetri, though wary of thinking too far ahead, spoke to select media persons here on Friday.

A file photo of Sunil Chhetri.   -  Vivek Bendre

After a shock 2-1 defeat to Sporting Clube de Goa in February, Bengaluru FC’s I-League title hopes came under the scanner. That mid-season loss, however, jolted BFC into action.

In the eight league fixtures that have been played since, the team has notched up five victories and two draws, and now finds itself just two points away from a second I-League trophy in three years.

A victory against Salgaocar FC at home on Sunday will see BFC emerge as National champion. An excited Sunil Chhetri, though wary of thinking too far ahead, spoke to select media persons here on Friday.

Excerpts:

Winning the I-League title at home would be perfect…

We would love for that to happen. The kind of passion and emotion that the fans bring is massive. I’ve played for many clubs in my 13-year career, but these guys are the best. They are one of the main reasons why we have done so well.

How did the Sporting Clube de Goa loss affect the team?

That was a real setback. To lose to a 10-man side — at home — is something that I did not expect. The gaffer (coach Ashley Westwood) — a stickler for detail — gave all of us a real hammering, including me. He gets in your face and tells you what went wrong. Thankfully, all of us know our roles, and we bounced back. This shows that even when we falter, we are strong enough to make a comeback.

It must make you proud that BFC is probably the only Indian club to consistently field under-22 players…

Malsawmzuala, Daniel (Lalhlimpuia), Udanta (Singh), Len (Seiminlen Doungel), Amrinder Singh — these are all under-22 players who regularly play for us. When we started with 11 Indian players against Ayeyawady United FC (on Wednesday, in an AFC Cup match in Bengaluru), people were shocked. That was a big match. If we had lost, we were out (BFC won 5-3). It tells you how much the coach believes in us. Senior or junior, every player is treated equally.

Almost every other club — except BFC — uses an under-22 player only for the first 15 for 20 minutes, before taking them out (all clubs are required to start with at least one under-22 player). They are making a mockery of this rule. Imagine the psyche of a junior — he only has 18 minutes to impress everyone. But this is not the case with BFC. Against East Bengal, Malsawmzuala made a huge blunder which led us to concede the opening goal. I can bet that any other club would have taken him off immediately. We did not substitute him, and he went on to score a goal.

Your BFC contract is up for renewal soon. Would you like to stay at BFC?

Yes, I feel at home here. I love the coaching staff, the owners, the players, the fans and the city. The temperature here is crossing 40°C of late (smiles), but even so, I want to stay at BFC.

The coach is in talks with foreign clubs. Would you like him to stay?

That is not in my hands, but yes, of course I want him to stay. It is like a family here at BFC. He is the captain for all of us. Why fix things which are not broken?