Chhetri: ‘We have been wasteful in front of goal’

Currently participating in the Federation Cup football tournament at the Barabati Stadium, Chhetri found some time to have a chat with Sportstar on various aspects of Indian football.

Bengaluru Football Club's Sunil Chhetri feels the Under-17 World Cup is a great chance for the players and the country to show that we are taking our football very seriously.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Sunil Chhetri is a team man whether he plays for his club, Bengaluru FC, or the country. The seasoned striker was chosen as Player of the Year for the fifth time, but personal milestones have long since stopped mattering to him.

Currently participating in the Federation Cup football tournament at the Barabati Stadium here, Chhetri found some time to have a chat with Sportstar on various aspects of Indian football. Excerpts:

How does it feel to be named player of the year for the fifth time?

While I won’t deny that recognition is always nice, I don’t really make much of personal milestones or trophies. We’ve not had the best season in the I-League and I wish this award could change that. But we’ve got to pick ourselves up. Awards and milestones don’t motivate me, stepping on the pitch to win a game for club or country does.

How do you analyse BFC's season so far?

It has been a very strange season and I can’t put my finger on one particular reason why we’ve not done well in the I-League. We have played some very attacking football but we’ve been so wasteful in front of goal, far too often for our liking. We’ve also had to deal with so many injuries to key players and our luck has been cursed on so many occasions. We conceded an own goal against Minerva at home and then at Chennai away and ended up sharing points when we should have taken all of them. We had a legitimate goal disallowed in Aizawl and then I missed a penalty in the same match to share points again.

While I won’t deny that recognition is always nice, I don’t really make much of personal milestones or trophies. We’ve not had the best season in the I-League and I wish this award could change that.

I know these things happen in football but I’m just trying to convey the poor luck we’ve been stuck with. But we’ve been doing well in the AFC Cup and will be doing everything to make the knockout stages.

How do you describe Aizawl FC's rise to prominence? Is it a good sign for Indian football?

Definitely. They dug deep and churned out results consistently. They are always a good side at home and they made sure they took advantage of the fact. It’s nice to see a state that’s given so many other cities quality players, go on and win something themselves. The Northeast never needed a push when it came to football. But it has now got the recognition it deserves.

India has climbed to 100th rank after two decades. How can it be improved?

Like I’ve said in the past, while it is a really nice feeling to reach the number we have, we need to realise that staying there consistently is the key. This team has talent in abundance and so many new faces have got a look in which is encouraging. But we need to play better opponents more often and grind out results. That will be the true measure of our success.

With the under-17 World Cup around the corner, how can the country make the most of hosting the mega event?

This is the big stage and we, as a country, have to turn up and make ourselves counted. Not only on the pitch but importantly, off it too. This could be the start of something big and we need to come together to pull the show off. I’ve seen a few games of the colts and there are some very good talents on the pitch. This is a great chance for them and the country to showcase that we are taking our football very seriously.

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