At a time when most opt for vacations during the off-season, national team captain Sunil Chhetri stays different. In fact, he wants to utilise the off-season by spending time with the kids and passing on his knowledge at a coaching camp.
In an exclusive interview to AIFF Media, Chhetri speaks about the concept of his coaching camp, plans for a future academy, the forthcoming season, the present financial crisis in Indian domestic football and much more.
How much is an off-season important for a footballer?
It’s the only time when we get to stay with our families. If you look at me, I’ve been travelling all over in the year without even getting time to spend with my family. Isn’t it the best feeling to see the faces of your dear ones around when you wake up in the morning?
At the same time, I’m growing up and cannot shy away from my responsibilities. I felt blessed when I could stay by my mom’s side when she got operated recently. That’s the responsibility of a son. During peak-season, even if my heart wanted, maybe I may not have been able to be there. It’s the same for all footballers.
Do you have any specific plans?
Yeah, there’s an unique plan. There’s a plan to have a coaching camp for kids at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi. It kicks-off on June 16 and will go on for eight days.
Tell us more about it.
Some time back, some of my friends came up to me with the idea of opening a football academy in New Delhi. I didn’t want to dampen their enthusiasm but was a bit skeptical at the outset. Simply because, sustaining an academy is a huge thing. You just cannot have an Academy for the sake of having it.
Instead, I told them to have an 8-day coaching camp and revisit the idea of the academy later on. [click here for more details on the coaching camp]
How different will this coaching camp be different from other camps?
It’s not just a camp pulled out from the dictionary; rather, the kids will be taking back home of how they need to take it up further. The idea is to give the kids a proper feeling of how a training process should be. A budding footballer needs to balance practice, diet and rest at the same time. But someone needs to tell them about it.
I will personally talking and interacting with the kids and tell them about the mistakes which I made at their age. I will also have a separate session with the parents.
We will take care of the kitting’ Nike, will be supplying the balls and the kids will be given clean drinking water and proper nutrition in between and after the sessions. The first two days will be the trials practice sessions have been slated for next four days. The practice matches would take place during the last two days.
We will revisit the concept after maybe organise another camp three months later. If at that stage we feel we can sustain an academy, we will take the plunge.
You are playing at your peak. Isn’t it too early for you to be associated with such a camp?
It’s an opportunity to meet kids. It’s an opportunity to share your experiences during the off-season. It’s an opportunity to pass on your knowledge to the next generation. The timing is perfect as I don’t have any footballing commitments at the moment.
We will have a separate batch for the U-12-14 Boys and another one for U-16 Boys. There’s also an open category for U-18 Girls. We will finalise the timings depending on the response.
Which club colours will you be donning next season?
I haven’t decided it yet and haven’t signed for any club. In any case, I have to go back to Sporting Lisbon and discuss the possibilities of a loan to some other club.
The financial stability in the Indian domestic market has suddenly taken a hit. How do you react to it?
It’s unfortunate but it happens. That’s how economy all over the world is. There was a time when there was a boom and the players benefitted from it. But as now there’s a crisis, one has to adjust. And I tell you, the players will. The situation is just an indication that clubs need to be more sensible and spend more wisely.
After your performance in Churchill Brothers do you feel you have been able to break the myth that Sunil Chhetri never plays well for any club?
(Laughs). Everyone stays free to have their own opinion. To be honest such talks disturbed me initially. But I’ve learnt to stay calm; maybe I’m more matured now. My job is to work hard and play. I’ve done it and will do it till the time I hang my boots. A day will come when even this talk will subside.
(AIFF Press Release)