What makes Sunil Chhetri so special

Chhetri shows India the way

Few Indian players have achieved similar successes to Sunil Chhetri. The curriculum vitae of the current captain of the world's second most populous country is as long as it is impressive. Chhetri is one of the few Indians who played as a professional abroad, namely for MLS club Sporting Kansas City. He has replaced the legendary Baichung Bhutia as India's record scorer and with his important goals he contributed to India ending a 27-year-long dry spell at the AFC Asian Cup in 2011.

Actually, the now 31-year-old should gradually get used to the idea that his career is coming to an end. Instead, the striker continues to be a central figure in the Indian team, which wants to finally make the long-awaited impression in qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia ™. And when it comes to success with India or the long-term goal of further progress in the Southeast Asian country, Chhetri still feels a lot of fire within.

Slip at the beginning of a long road
First and foremost, of course, is the World Cup qualification for Russia 2018. Here, however, the hopes for the beginning of a new era got quite a damper. India lost to Oman and also to Guam, which was actually treated as an outsider. Other opponents in the group, which is also particularly culturally diverse, are Turkmenistan and four-time World Cup participant Iran. Chhetri, who has scored all four of India's goals so far and is thus the most successful goalscorer in World Cup qualification in Asia, now sees the task as an even greater challenge, although only a quarter of the group games have been played.

"The path now seems extremely difficult," he said FIFA.com. "The guys were really pretty down [after the game against Guam]. They're all very young. I talked to them and made it clear to them that we just have to focus on the next game. Do your best and then we'll see how it goes on. To be completely honest, it looks very, very difficult now, but we have to put it down to ourselves.

We actually did a pretty good job against Oman. We lost, but I think we played really well. One penalty was not recognized and we almost converted another. We are satisfied with the progress that has been made, especially because we are a new, young team.

Then came the trip to Guam, and we really didn't play very well there. Numerous reasons were put forward after that, but I think the main factor was that the 11 players just weren't right about it. I am not ashamed to admit that. I have mixed feelings about this because it is still a very young team.

Now we have to concentrate fully on Iran. The game against Iran is a very special opportunity for us. After all, the Iranians have already taken part in the World Cup and have a very strong team. "

"We are currently in a phase of upheaval. Many older generation players have left the team and many young players are moving in. We can't just shake a team off the wrist.

I like to see myself as a captain who is always available, but I am convinced that you can impress more with deeds than with words. The young players will only follow you if you are disciplined and set a good example. "

Rebuilding
Football in India received a huge boost last year with the launch of the Super League. Several international stars are playing in the new league, and they attracted an enormous amount of audience and media interest in the first season. In addition, the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup is the country's first FIFA tournament.

When Chhetri made his first footballing attempts himself, the situation was completely different. He learned the basics as a child from his mother and an aunt, who competed internationally for Nepal, and his father, who played in an army team. Back then, however, football ranked far further behind the national sport of cricket than it does today, and it only played a subordinate role.

"The league is definitely helpful," said Chhetri, assessing the influence of the Super League on football in India. "The league is very popular. A lot more people have come to the games and they want to learn more about football. It's very important. But we shouldn't rely too much on one player. The ISL, the I-League, The association, the government, the fans, the players, the media - we all have to do our job. And in addition to improving the infrastructure and strengthening the league, it is very important that the national team also perform well go in hand.

"But it will not be created by magic. It has to develop accordingly. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that everything is changing quickly when there is so much interest in football now. But it will not happen. It is very important that We as a nation create good training opportunities and provide good coaches for children of all ages. How you train is very important. We definitely have to improve this aspect in our country.

"The sooner we create an environment and a system in which all boys and girls can play football and find good coaches and good facilities, the better. That would be half the battle. This is my dream for my country. If that is us If it succeeds, we will soon not be in the FIFA / Coca-Cola world rankings as we are now. "