ISL 2020-21: Onus is now on us to perform, says Bengaluru FC's Chhetri

ISL 2020: “For our team, topping the league is most important,” says Bengaluru FC and India skipper Sunil Chhetri. “The motivation of getting the AFC Champions League slot is a huge one. We would love to do that.”

Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri feels Bengaluru FC's retention of its player core will help in the club's Indian Super League (ISL 2020-21) campaign.   -  Twitter @Bengaluru FC

At 36, Sunil Chhetri is at the fag end of a storied career that has lasted nearly two decades. Yet, the Bengaluru FC (BFC) and India skipper is not short of motivation.

There is now the burning desire to qualify for the AFC Champions League group stage, a spot reserved for the Indian Super League (ISL) league-stage topper.

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“For our team, topping the league is most important,” Chhetri said ahead of ISL 2020-21. “The motivation of getting the AFC Champions League slot is a huge one. We would love to do that.”

But there are multiple challenges to overcome. “Not being able to play at Kanteerava (Stadium) and not having our fans will be a big miss. East Bengal coming into the ISL will make it more competitive. There is a level playing field except for maybe FC Goa. But even for them, despite playing at home, fans won’t be there,” he said.

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“Staying in the bubble is not easy, but we have to be aware of what we are getting in return. The opportunity to do what you love when so many people are still struggling for basic things is something to be thankful for. We are a close-knit unit and that is going to probably give us an edge,” he added.

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri going through his paces in the lead up to the new season.   -  BFC media


BFC retaining its player core will help too, Chhetri felt. “If you haven’t had a debacle of a season, and you retain your core, it’s an advantage. If you have the same coach also, it is a benefit. I think the coach has got all the players he wanted. The onus is now on us to perform.”

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The players’ form during their preparatory camp in Ballari, Karnataka, has given Chhetri hope. “Aashique (Kuruniyan) and Leon (Augustine) have been in excellent physical condition and I hope they can replicate what they have shown in training. Suresh (Wangjam) and Udanta (Singh) look sharp and the B-team boys are hungry,” said Chhetri.

“Gurpreet (Sandhu) has been great, especially the way he has taken up a leadership role. The Indian boys have benefited a lot from how he has taken over the mantle and shown the way. It’s a big jump I have seen in Gurpreet.

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“Everything looks good. Two more weeks of training would have made things better. But it’s the same situation for all teams. We are trying our best. I am hoping we don’t get injured, chances of which are high after such a long break,” he added.

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