New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) India football captain Sunil Chhetri has revealed that ever since he made his debut for the national team, everyone in in the team wants him to score.
Chhetri made his international debut in 2005 in a match against Pakistan having the likes of Bhutia and Renedy Singh in the team.
“Since the first time when I played against Pakistan in Pakistan on my debut to now, everyone in the team wants me to score,” Chhetri was quoted as saying by indiansuperleague.com.
“There was no comparison whatsoever and thankfully Bhaichung bhai was in my team at that time. People like Bhaichung, Mahesh Gawli, Deepak Mondal, Renedy Singh, Samir Naik, Surkumar Singh, Climax Lawrence were in the national team back then and they were brilliant. They guarded me and protected me so much.
“But they never interfered with my freedom. Everyone wanted me to score. And the 70 odd goals that I have scored for the national team came about because of this,” he added.
The 35-year-old is the second highest scorer in the world among active players, next only to star Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Indian captain also said that during the early playing days, he was under so much pressure while playing in Kolkata that he cried many times.
Chhetri, at the age of 17, had his first professional contract with Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan.
“The first year was good. I used to get 20 minutes or 30 minutes game time in matches and people used to tag me next Bhaichung Bhutia and what not. But football in Kolkata teaches you very quickly,” Chhetri said.
He said that losing is not an option in Kolkata as the crowd is very passionate about the sport.
“The crowd turns hostile when you start losing and there were times I used to cry. Losing is not an option in Kolkata,” said Chhetri
“It’s not easy, a lot of players even quit. There were instances which shook me and I even called my father back home once and said that I don’t think I should do this.
“My family supported me a lot and my father flew in to stay with me from time to time. We talked and it made things easier. The story continued and 18 years on, here I am,” he added.
Chhetri, who is counted as one of the most prolific strikers across the world, has so far made 102 appearances for India and has scored 72 goals.