Chhetri: 'Bengaluru FC has been a game changer for Indian football'

Bengaluru FC is the first team to reach the playoff this season with Chhetri playing a key role by scoring 10 goals.

Sunil Chhetri

For Chhetri and his team the Indian Super League has been a good ride so far.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

Sunil Chhetri has helped Bengaluru FC to make a seamless transition to the Indian Super League from the I-league.

Bengaluru is the first team to reach the playoff this season with Chhetri playing a key role by scoring 10 goals and becoming the first ever Indian to reach the double-figure in an ISL campaign.

Read: Chennaiyin sharpshooter Jeje wants to strike gold

The Blues' skipper, who was rested during the team's AFC Cup qualifiers, will be back for the group stages of the tournament to have another crack at the trophy which has eluded them in the past.

In a chat with Sportstar, the national team captain talked on topics covering Indian football and Bengaluru FC.

An exciting 12 months is in store for your club and the national team with the ISL playoffs and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup to look forward to, respectively. What are your minimum objectives in this period?

I’ve never gone with goals, aims and objectives in my career. Of course, everyone’s competing to win and I’m no different but I tend to stay away from targets (on paper) and numbers. We have been very consistent in the ISL, have managed to make the group stages of the AFC Cup yet again and the national team, too, has been getting some very good results. There’s not much I can be unhappy about.

At 33, you have been one of the fittest and the fastest player in the league this season. How do you manage to do it?

It’s all about training hard, eating right and resting well. I’m not growing any younger which means I have to put in the extra yards at training. Then there are guys like Udanta (Singh) to make me push me harder.

What have you made of Bengaluru FC's switch to the ISL so far?

I’ll leave that to you to decide. We became the first team to do a lot of things in what is only our first season. That said, our most important games lie ahead of us. But, it’s been a good ride so far.

What are your thoughts on the current season of the ISL?

To be honest I’m solely focusing on the task we have at hand. The fight for places in the semifinal is going down to the wire and that kind of a finish is good for the League.

Your partnership with Miku has fetched 24 goals so far. Although you play as a left forward who drifts to the middle, what do you make of a two man strike partnership as opposed to playing alone up front?

It's just different games. Some of the games Miku and I play as strikers, while other times I play on the left. Goals are important but not as important as the team's strategy. It's what the coach asks of us and we move forward from there.

The AIFF has announced the dates for the first-ever Super Cup at the end of the ISL season. Would the players see it as an added motivation after a long campaign?

The Super Cup is going to be exciting with the I-League teams in the fray too. However, it will be physically very demanding and we will need to stay fit and be on top of our game even mentally. We want to challenge for the title in every tournament we take part in and the Super Cup will be no different.

Which Indian U-23 players have impressed you so far in the ISL?

There are a few youngsters who have been doing really well. Jerry Mawihmingthanga (Jamshedpur FC) has been impressive and so has Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin FC). However, it’s important we keep these boys away from the spotlight and pressure and give them as much exposure as possible on the pitch.

Bengaluru's coach Albert Roca told the media before the match against Chennaiyin FC, that you could become a legend at BFC. Do you see yourself playing for the Blues until you call it a day?

The coach (Roca) is a kind man! I am very happy at Bengaluru FC and have two more years on my contract. I joined the club in 2013 and it’s been an amazing journey that is still on.

How far has Indian football come since the inception of BFC? Things seem to have started rolling with regards to club football since BFC came into the picture in 2013.

BFC has been a game changer for Indian football in many ways and you don’t have to be a fan of the club to agree with me. Every day the effort is on to get better and improve and I am not talking only about the senior team. Also, how good you are as a nation (in football terms) largely depends on how good a system your league and its clubs have in place.