Sunil Chhetri retires: Former India captain Shanmugam Venkatesh recalls Chhetri’s debut, lauds dedication

Shamugam Venkatesh was the captain of the Indian national team when Chhetri made his senior debut in 2005.

Published : May 16, 2024 19:13 IST , KOLKATA - 5 MINS READ

Former India captain Shanmugam Venkatesh.
Former India captain Shanmugam Venkatesh. | Photo Credit: THE HINDU

Former India captain Shanmugam Venkatesh. | Photo Credit: THE HINDU

Former India captain Shanmugam Venkatesh paid rich tributes to Sunil Chhetri after he announced his international retirement on Thursday. 

“Sunil made his India team debut when I was the National team captain. I remember our coach Sukhi Sir (Sukhwinder Singh) asking me whether young Sunil (then playing for East Bengal) should be called for the National camp. It was 2005 and I was the Indian team captain. I readily agreed to our coach’s wish as Sunil was really coming up as a promising striker,“ Venkatesh told  Sportstar

“Sunil Chhetri’s biggest quality is his longevity and consistency as a playing member of the national team. From the very beginning, he was extremely serious about his game and did everything to serve the nation for a long time. He is a skilful player and has the special ability to score goals,” said former India coach Sukhwinder Singh.

“Over the years he has sharpened his decision-making instinct inside the penalty box to emerge India’s top scorer. This is a special talent which will be hard to replace,” Singh added.

“I had the fortune of having his company as a captain, teammate and then as a coach (India team assistant coach). I always thought that he was a player with a sharp and analytical mind. Players like him become a necessity for the team for possessing that evaluative mind that most of the others in the team lack. He joined the Indian squad at a time when there were many strikers in the side looking to step in the shoes of Bhaichung Bhutia. Sunil possessed that professional acumen when he gradually positioned himself as the key striker of the Indian team where he remained for such a long time,” Venkatesh said.

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Talking about Chhetri’s dedication to the game, Venkatesh said, “He is a player whose discipline and dedication to the sport is unparalleled. He was so particular about his fitness that he sacrificed a lot of pleasures especially when it came to diet. He stopped having cakes and pastries at one time because of their high calorific value. I have never seen a player who could retain this level of fitness for such a long time. And apart from that Sunil made himself indispensable for the team because of his quality as a player. He had a unique playing style which was always central to the team’s objective.”

“Sunil proved himself that he is a great captain, a true leader who could motivate his teammates to give their best on the pitch. He set high professional standards and remained committed to his goals, both on and outside the field. Sunil took his professionalism to such an exemplary height that many young players started following him. He was a complete footballer and outshone many star players who wore the Indian colours in the last few decades. He was very confident of what he was doing and never betrayed the insecurity of losing his place in the team. We all respect his immense contribution to Indian football,“ the former India captain added. 

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