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Chhetri: "Youngsters are ready for the Challenge"

Sunil Chhetri & Jeje Lalpeklua

Sunil Chhetri & Jeje Lalpeklua

Team India striker Sunil Chhetri has always been burdened by expectations. The star striker, who has a new partner upfront in Jeje Lalpeklua feels National Coach Armando Colaco has chosen the right set of players for the National Camp.

In a freewheeling interview to, Chhetri lavished huge praise on the U-20 boys and says it won’t make much of a difference if the youngsters are fielded in the Playing XI.

How has the transition been from the Bob Houghton era to Armando Colaco’s National Camp?

It’s been very smooth. Armando has been sensible in choosing the present set of players for the Camp. He has been India’s most successful coach in the I-League and knows all the players inside-out. He knows his priorities and has been implementing his set-formulas for the benefit of the team.

You have played under Armando’s coaching in Dempo. How much of it helps?

Not only me, all the players from Dempo are reaping the benefits of having played under his coaching. A player needs to know what his coach wants from him. Only then can a team be successful. In that regard, I consider myself lucky.

Bhaichung Bhutia has partnered you upfront in most of the matches for Team India. Post Asian Cup, Jeje Lalpeklua and your partnership has been the talk of the town. How do you describe Jeje?

When I first came to the National Team, Bhaichung helped and guided me a long way and it helped me to mature fast. I feel Jeje is already a mature guy. He has a physical presence and can hold the ball which enables me to make my runs. His shielding of the ball is excellent and that makes my job easier.

What’s your take on the India juniors – the U-20 bunch of boys who are at the Camp? Do you feel Indian football is in safe hands?

I don’t feel they are ‘juniors’ at all. If you play them in the first XI, it won’t make much of a difference. I feel they have already arrived. Jewel (Raja), Shilton (D’Silva), Raju (Gaikwad), Jeje (Lalpeklua), Dika (Lalrindika Ralte) are a conglomeration of unique talent and the right attitude. And when you have such a pool, it makes the job of the coach all the more easier. But at the same time, he has a pleasant headache of having a surplus of choices.

The last time India played UAE, the result wasn’t up to the expectations. Can India turn the tables on UAE this time?

The last time we played UAE, we were hard hit by injuries and couldn’t field our first Playing XI and eight players had to sit out. I’m praying for our side to stay injury-free before we meet them in the first-leg on July 23. In football, it all boils down to converting your chances and the manner in which you play on that respective day.

(AIFF Press Release)