Legend Sunil Chhetri breaks a billion hearts as he says goodbye

football article
Sunil Chhetri. Source: AIFF

He is clearly one of the greatest footballers to have played for India. Statesman and captain, Sunil Chhetri was once frustrated when he was forced to sit out a match against Qatar in Doha because of an injury. The reason, he has always primed himself on being one of the fittest players in the team. He had once said to me, “I know I am not as talented as Messi or Ronaldo but what stops me from working as hard as them and if not harder. That is in my control and I can certainly do it”.

Sunil then went on to add, “You know I no longer eat what I want to. Rather I eat what I need.”

Simple words that have stayed with me. Each one of us have our weaknesses and want our cheat days. We love to indulge on occasions. Break the mould of monotony. Not Sunil. Just like Virat Kohli, who once had one cheat meal in four years, Chhetri has raised the fitness bar for the Indian national team. That is what makes him different.


The other thing that stands out with Sunil is his philosophy. He knows that in sport every day you will not win. That’s how sport is. But for him it is all about effort, the process. If that’s right, the result doesn’t really matter.

“Each game I play is like a challenge to me. The thrill is to push yourself and try to raise the bar each time you step out onto the park. Do the same things better over and over again. Get them right each time you do so. That’s when you improve and gain consistency. That’s what I as a footballer always aspired to do. Not every day will you win. There will be days when the opposition plays better than you. But what you need to be clear about is that your effort should always be at an optimum. As far as effort and preparedness is concerned you can’t be lacking. That’s what I tell anyone who wants to play football at the highest level and that’s what keeps me going,” Chhetri has told me.
Now for that one final time against Kuwait, the FIFA World Cup third round qualification at stake. And now this. While we don’t really know what or who after Sunil, it is important we enjoy every single day of Sunil that is left. The one final game, the last dance. It’s this game which will matter. Such players don’t come often. We need to celebrate and consume Sunil Chhetri as long as we have him. It has to be optimum.

Also Read This Exclusive Interview of Sunil Chhetri: AFC Asian Cup 2024 II “Need to play stronger Asian teams more often”: Sunil Chhetri