Even as Chinese Taipei coach Gary White feels that his “youngsters will look up to Sunil Chhetri someday,” the Indian national team captain felt he hasn’t yet attained the stature where international footballers will “look up to him.”
“I feel I haven’t yet reached that stature where international footballers will look up to me,” he smiled. “At this moment, I am more concerned about myself and my career. Maybe 20 years from now with me having retired, I may reflect back whether I have inspired someone or not. But right now, it’s too premature,” the man with 99 international caps sounded humble.
Sitting pretty at 59 goals in international football, Chhetri on Friday, also became the first-ever Indian footballer to have scored three hat-tricks in international football surpassing Appalaraju and I.M. Vijayan, both of whom had two hattricks to their credit.
Speaking about his telepathy with fellow striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, Chhetri who has scored 15 goals in the 25 matches under coach Stephen Constantine attributed it to the duo having “played together” for long.
“The understanding comes from the fact that we have played many games together. Jeje is a supremely talented player. He really works hard on his game and is one of our best players. I try my best to help him and vice versa,” Chhetri said in one breath. “Two of my goals today (against Chinese Taipei) came off Jeje’s pass. He is a very strong player who can hold defenders. My job becomes easier when he is around.”
There’s however, a sentiment that Chhetri doesn’t celebrate his goals as much as his fans would love him too. “I feel extremely happy when I score. I am very fortunate to have played and scored for teams, both at the International level and at the Club level. I value my goals very much,” he reflected.
“Right after the game Udanta (Singh) was in the ice-bath and I congratulated him for scoring his first-ever international goal. Yeah, I am very fond of him but I told him: Congrats boy. But 58 more to go!”