New Delhi [India], April 27 (ANI): Indian football team's striker Lallianzuala Chhangte has revealed how skipper Sunil Chhetri's words encouraged him up to ease the pressure on the landmark day of his football career.
Chhangte had scored a brace for the senior national team in his debut match against Nepal in the SAFF Suzuki Championship in 2015.
"I was a bit nervous playing alongside the legend, Sunil-Bhai. He's the best who I have played with until now. I was just a kid at that time. He probably realised that and called me when I replaced Sanju-Bhai at half-time. He kept his hand on my shoulder and that took the pressure off me," All India Football Federation's official website quoted Chhangte as saying.
"His words still ring in my ears whenever I hit the football ground. He said, 'When you are in our half, release the ball fast and try to maintain the shape. But, when you are in the attacking third, never be afraid to take risks. You have the potential. Just be yourself and play your natural game," he added.
After a glorifying debut, Chhangte had to wait more than two years to earn his first start for the Blue Tigers when the team flew to Dhaka, Bangladesh to participate in the next edition of the SAFF Suzuki Championship.
"I remember it was against Sri Lanka in Dhaka. Singing the national anthem alongside my teammates gave me goosebumps, it still does. Honestly, I could not wait for the referee to blow the kick-off whistle," Chhangte said.
He added another one to his international tally that night September 5, 2018, to confirm India's 2-0 victory over the neighbours, which, in turn, consolidated India's position at the top of group B over the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Under the aegis of Igor Stimac, Chhangte has continued to improve and has shown promises time and again. He scored another alongside Sunil Chhetri against eventual winners DPR Korea in the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat on July 13, 2019.
The 23-year-old believes that the competition for places in the national team has increased over time, as the players constantly look to improve themselves.
"It's (the competition) a steep one and honestly, it's getting tougher every day. But, this is good, as it pushes and motivates me to become a better player. I shall continue working harder," Chhangte concluded. (ANI)