The changing face of international football suggests that footballers are reaching their peak post 30. AIFF Men’s Player of the Year 2018-19 Sunil Chhetri smiles. “I think the knowledge and discipline is the highest in my life right now – right from taking rest, eating the right food, and doing the right training,” he says.
In an interview, the man with 70 international goals spoke at length about his 6th AIFF Player of the Year Award, he being the biggest MC Mary Kom fan, his learnings from Mary Kom, about when a player ‘needs to look around, and beyond,’ and much more.
You won the AIFF Player of the Year for a record sixth time. Has it sunk in?
The Award is the added motivation to do better, and it reminds me of my responsibility. Honestly, I have never got a time, or ever have I sat back and thought of what, and how much have I achieved. I am just happy that I am playing for my country, and that I am training. I am enjoying it. I never think about 100+ games, or whatever number of goals, 6 AIFF Best Player awards. That I have kept aside to speak about over a drink when I retire. (smiles).
Where and from whom do you gather motivation from?
I gather from motivation around me — from a lot of personalities who have done well in their respective fields. MC Mary Kom is one of them. She is an unbelievable story. She is a 6-time World champion, and have been a World Champion after giving birth to twins, and even after being a mother of three. Besides, she has 14 Gold medals in all, including the Asian Games, the Asian Championships, the CWG Games, and others. If she doesn’t inspire India, who else will. I am her biggest fan.
What have you learnt from her?
Her never say die attitude. Nothing is too late, everything is possible. There are phases in life which surface at times, and it makes you understand that despite you working hard, everything what you are doing is probably not enough. That’s when you need to look around, and beyond. You need to look at what other people are doing. A prime example stays Mary Kom. That’s when the understanding creeps up — that you need to push yourself more.
So none from the footballing world inspires you?
There are two gentlemen named Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi (smiles again). In the last 10-11 years they have completely dominated the world of football. If they don’t score in 2-3 matches, people start speaking that ‘they are out of form.’ Whenever I am stressed or tired, I always think about these guys. And it falls into place for me.
With so much adulation, how do you look at life?
Thankfully, currently in my career everything else has been being taken care of. In my life the only one thing I have to do is to play. Everything else, God has given me. My family, comfort, food, luxury, name, fame – everything. I just need to be positive and play. And if I cannot do that to the best of my capabilities then I am letting myself down, and everyone who has been involved in making SC11 the brand – I am letting them down. That is my motivation.
You said Awards don’t mean much to you? But you must be feeling proud.
Off course I feel proud especially when people keep reminding you that almost record is in your name — and here you are talking about a country’s history. But I don’t take it too seriously. I don’t take it to my heart. I don’t get carried away. I know for a fact that it’s not going to last for ever.
From someone who never dreamt of playing for the country, or never even thought of making it professional – now holding almost all the records the country has – is unbelievable.