Sunil Chhetri thanks Bhaichung, Renedy for mentorship

On Friday, Indian football team captain Chhetri will complete 15 years of international football. He made his debut on June 12, 2005 against Pakistan.

Sunil Chhetri is placed 10th in the list of all-time highest goal-scorers in international football.   -  FILE PHOTO/K. MURALI KUMAR


Indian football team skipper Sunil Chhetri is set to complete 15 years at the international stage on Friday. He made his debut, on June 12, against Pakistan in 2005. He even scored in that game and thus, began the journey of a star.

Chhetri is placed 10th in the list of all-time highest goal-scorers in international football, and second among active players above Lionel Messi and just below Cristiano Ronaldo.

The captain credited his success in the sport to the lessons he learnt from his senior colleagues and former stars Bhaichung Bhutia and Renedy Singh. “When I signed for Mohun Bagan in 2002, Bhaichung bhai also joined the team. During our first meeting, he came to me and told I've heard about you kid and you're doing good. I was over the moon," said Chettri in a Facebook live session from the Indian Football Team handle.

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"From then it was a dream come true moment for me to play with him for both club and country. Not only him, but I also owe a lot to Renedy bhai. They've taught me how to play the game on the field and how to behave off it too. I learnt the importance of fitness, how to stay grounded and go for extra training," he added.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the fight against racism gained steam after the death of George Floyd in the US. The 'Black Lives Matter' movement peaked after the African-American was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis in the last week of May.

The incident affected Chhetri too. “There's no logic if someone thinks he is superior to some other person due to his colour, caste, religion or where he/she is born. We've evolved so much as human beings and it's very important that we educate people around us the importance of eradicating racism. It's just common sense."

The Bengaluru FC forward also highlighted how hosting FIFA tournaments like the U-17 World Cup in 2017 and the upcoming U-17 Women’s World Cup will help the youngsters in the country. “The U17 women's WC is massive. We saw what hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup did to the country. These international tournaments help youngsters in the country reach the next level. One of them — Suresh (Wangjam) — plays with me in Bengaluru and he is so confident on the field. Amarjit (Kiyam) and Jitendra (Singh) have performed well too. This exposure will make them better than most of us," he said.

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The 35-year-old striker added that the vegan diet he is currently following has helped him recover better from injuries and niggles.

"Dr Sandeep Kumar, who was with the national team, and I discussed that post-thirty, to aid my recovery, I should leave meat and milk because it takes a bit more time for my body to digest them. So I tried it during my off-season to see how it goes. After trying it, I felt wonderful, fresh and light. My recovery was better. I started it for footballing reasons and then went on to realise the other benefits of not eating flesh in the longer run. Now it really helps me."

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