Football

Sunil Chhetri: India Legend 'Will Do Everything' To Take Indian Football To Promised Land

Indian football legend Sunil Chhetri might have bid adieu to his international career but he remains deeply attached to the fortunes of the team and says he will do everything in his power to take the country to the "promised land"

AIFF
Sunil Chettri Photo: AIFF
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Indian football legend Sunil Chhetri might have bid adieu to his international career but he remains deeply attached to the fortunes of the team and says he will do everything in his power to take the country to the "promised land". (More Football News)

Speaking at a function attended by President Droupadi Murmu, who flagged off the trophy tour of Durand Cup football tournament, Chhetri said that India will one day reach that level which the people of the country dreamt of.

"I have experienced a lot of ups and downs in my career, but one thing is constant, that is one day, we will reach that level which all of us have dreamt of," said Chhetri who retired from international football last month after breaking a plethora of national records.

Chhetri will continue to play in the Indian Super League as his contract with Bengaluru FC runs till next year. He is yet to decide when he will quit domestic football.

"I can't do much now as I am retired but I will do everything I can to take India to that promised land. We have a lot to work for, but we will be at that place we want to be," Chhetri, who turns 40 next month, said without elaborating.

Chhetri was speaking about Indian football's future at a time when the game in the country has been in a state of turmoil for the past few weeks after the team failed to qualify for the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, leading to the sacking of coach Igor Stimac.

Chhetri had spoken during his playing days that instead of thinking about when India will qualify for the World Cup, the country should first hope to be among the top-20 in Asia and then move up to top-10, before taking a final shot at the four-year showpiece.

During Chhetri's 19-year-long illustrious career, India has been in the top-20 in Asia but not in top-10. Currently, India is at 22nd place in Asia and 124th in the world, a steep drop in one year.

In July 2023, India had entered the top-100 in the FIFA rankings following their Intercontinental Cup and SAFF Championship victories.

Talking about the Durand Cup, which begins in Kolkata on July 27, Chhetri reminisced how he was "discovered" and came into national limelight after playing in the century-old tournament in 2002 for Delhi club City FC.

"I was discovered in this tournament when I was playing for a Delhi club. This is not just a tournament. There is a lot of tradition and history of Indian football associated with it," said Chhetri, who led Bengaluru FC to Durand Cup title win in 2022.

"Durand Cup is the springboard of many a talented players in this country," said the former captain of Asia's oldest -- and world's fifth oldest -- tournament which was first held in Shimla in 1888.

Chhetri was named one of the five promising players of the 2002 edition of the Durand Cup held in Delhi. He was spotted by Mohun Bagan during the tournament, who called him to Kolkata for the trials.

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