CPD FOOTBALL | THE BLOG | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Sunil Chhetri & Robin Singh: The league is a marathon, not a sprint

Sunil Chhetri & Robin Singh (Bengaluru FC)
Sunil Chhetri & Robin Singh (Bengaluru FC)

Picture courtesy: I-League Media

Bengaluru FC, striving for the most coveted silverware of Indian football, are plying their trade in Asian platform also and have already gained many a connoisseur’s plaudit of late. Be it animalistic, brutal attack or composed, captive defense – the Blues have etched their names in bold letters in every sphere of Indian football.

India and Bengaluru FC stars Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh, the linchpins of Ashley Westwood’s ploy, have joined I-League Media for a candid tete-a-tete session and shared their views on various issues in the likes of basic measures to be followed by a youngster, coaches and many more.

INTERVIEW

Sunil, it seems that everything is not in right path for you this season. Personally, are you more focused towards AFC Cup?
Sunil Chhetri: It’s been a successful season for BFC no matter how it ends. We won the Federation Cup at the start of the year, are in the running to defend our I-League title and have made the last-16 of the AFC Cup on our debut in the tournament. As for my focus, it lies wherever we have a chance and as it stands, we have a chance in two tournaments.

Being the mainstays in the dressing room do you play the role of doting senior with extra responsibilities?
Sunil: We have a nice mix of experienced players and youngsters. It’s more of sharing that experience than anything. There’s Joshua Walker who has captained the England Under-20 team, John Johnson and Curtis Osano have played across clubs in England. So there’s always an exchange of advice. We all get along really well and there’s no real line that divides the youngsters from the more senior players.

Robin, how did you feel scoring against East Bengal Club – is it just another goal or something else with a message?
Robin Singh: Like it is with any striker, scoring a goal gives me immense happiness. What made the goal against East Bengal really special was that it was part of our first win over them in two seasons. We have played well against them in the past but never managed three points. That night at the Kanteerava was something else though. The fans were many and loud and we capped off a memorable win.

Which defense line, according to you, is the most resilient and sturdy in Hero I-League?
Sunil: Without wanting to demean any team, we’ve never really paid as much attention to these things. For us, it’s always been about focusing on our strengths. If I am not wrong, we’ve scored for 20 games straight which tell a lot about how we attack. That said, we have come up against good defenders and those contests have always been enjoyable ones.

How do you prepare yourselves before a Hero I-League match? What is the basic measures one upcoming striker should take care of before one match?
Sunil: What we do on the pitch is a result of how we train through the week. At Bengaluru FC, everything is planned to perfection. The build-up to every game is charted out in advance. So we are always prepared on matchday.
Robin: As a striker, you play to put the ball into the back of the net and the more you practice doing that, the better you will get at it.

You guys are playing South China next. Robin, did you contact Andrew Barisic, your ex co-player in East Bengal, to get the insights of the club?
Robin: Not really. We usually focus on our strengths. I’m pretty sure the coaching staff has gone through videos and will guide us exactly what’s to be done to get the better of them.

After clinching the Hero I-League quite convincingly last year, you had to suffer certain hiccups initially this season. Were you guys a little complacent?
Robin: We have never stepped on the pitch with a complacent attitude. The gaffer always makes sure we never take any team lightly. We did have a slow start but the League is a marathon, not a sprint. The table at the moment tells the story. Just because we won the League last season doesn’t make it mandatory for us to have a great start this season.

A never-ending debate is there in India whether foreign coaches are better than Indian coaches or not. You two have played under a number of coaches throughout your career. What are the basic differences among them?
Sunil: It would be stupid to compare because every coach, irrespective of what country he comes from, brings something new and special to the table. I’ve learned something from every coach I have played under.
Robin: I’d agree with Sunil bhai on this one. I don’t really treat this as a debate because there’s something that every coach brings with him that is unique to him. As a player, you’ve to soak in all the right things that help you develop and better yourself.

(Report & Picture courtesy I-League Media)