Chhetri: ‘I will be happy if I can score in the Asian Cup’

Chhetri was voted by his peers as the best player of the country.

Sunil Chhetri said that his best strike is yet to come and he’s hoping that it comes in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup from January 5-February 1 in the UAE.   -  PTI

The laurels keep pouring in for Indian captain and country’s reigning football icon, Sunil Chhetri. Following the latest feat where he equalled one of the best footballers of the world, Lionel Messi, as the joint second highest international goal scorer among active players, Chhetri was voted by his peers as the best player of the country. This came as Chhetri guided India to the title of the Intercontinental Cup scoring eight of the 11 goals tallied by the winner in the tournament.

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The country’s leading goal scorer of all time sought to keep his focus on a good result in the continental championship, the Asian Cup, where India has qualified to the main stage of the tournament after a break of seven years. “We want to improve individually as players and then as a team,” Chhetri said after he received the Indian Player of the Year award instituted by the professional footballers’ body – Football Players Association of India – here on Tuesday evening. The Indian captain was voted best by his peers playing in the I-League and ISL.

“However much we improve but it still may be less when it comes to doing well in the Asian Cup (which starts in the first week of January 2019). So, we need to really apply ourselves,” Chhetri said. “We are a better team now after the Intercontinental Cup win. I hope we get even better when we start our campaign early next year against sides like Bahrain, Thailand and host UAE,” he added.

When it came to his own feat and the comparison with the Argentine superstar, Messi, Chhetri was prudently dismissive. “Please do not take it seriously. I am proud to have scored for my country and that is more important. I will be happy if I can score in the Asian Cup,” he said.

The other awardees included Jerry Mawihmingthanga of ISL side Jamshedpur FC, who received the “Young Player of the Year” award while Miku of Bengaluru FC was named the best “Foreign Player of the Year.” Subhash Singh of I-league side NEROCA FC bagged the “Fans’ Player of the Year” award while Albert Roca of Bengaluru FC was declared the best coach of the year.