Doha [Qatar], June 12 (ANI): It was on this day 16 years ago, that India football captain Sunil Chhetri donned the India jersey for the first time, in the match against Pakistan.
Since then, that talismanic striker has gone on to play 117 internationals, and scored 74 goals -- the second-most for an active international goalscorer in the world.
"To start with, it comes from my parents -- especially my mum. When I was growing up, playing different sports -- carrom, chess, chinese checkers, and other outdoor sports -- with my mum was a very common phenomenon at my house. My first competitor was always my mum. I remember I always wanted to beat my mum, but till the time I was 13, I couldn't beat her. And she never wanted to lose either. I think the fact that I don't like losing, a big part of that comes from my mum," Chhetri said in an official release issued by All India Football Federation (AIFF).
"I don't understand it. They say participation is the key, which is alright after the game is done, because that's all you can do. You can give your best, and whatever result comes, it's okay. But before the game, nobody wants to lose. I think about any game, be it a proper World Cup Qualifier, or a normal table tennis game, I feel the same way -- I don't like to lose," he added.
Earlier this week, Chhetri had added another feather to his illustrious cap as he overtook Argentine striker Lionel Messi to become the second-highest active international goalscorer. He achieved the feat when he struck a brace to help India defeat Bangladesh 2-0 at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium at Al Sadd Club in Doha.
"It's been amazing. To play for the number of years for the national team, to represent the country the number of times I have, it's been outstanding. It is beyond a dream. It's a wonderful journey, that would not have been possible without my family, friends, my close group, the players I've played with, the coaches I've trained under, the physios, the doctors -- and I say this because all of them are equally important for whatever I've achieved," said Chhetri.
When asked about his learning from former skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, Chhetri said: "Oh, I learnt a lot from him. Not just him, but all the seniors that I named earlier -- Renedy bhai, Mahesh bhai, Climax Lawrence, Abhishek Yadav, Surkumar (Singh) -- all of them. I was very fortunate to have been pampered. For Bhaichung da, one thing that I loved about him is how down-to-earth he really was. We all knew who he was -- he was our captain, the main guy. But he was so approachable, and he made efforts to come and talk to each one of us. I still remember, our group used to talk to us, share his experiences, tell us where we are going wrong -- not just on the field, but off the field too."
"We were very well-nourished as far as our seniors were concerned, especially with Bhaiching da. All of them were very kind and helpful. They did tell us when we were wrong. They had different ways of dealing with us, but all of them taught us so much. There's nobody better than Bhaichung da. That man was relentless in the way he approached a game. His mentality was bulletproof. He was at it, every game. The first challenge, the first tackle was always Bhaichung da. The one to fight for lost causes was always Bhaichung da. And when as a senior you saw that our captain, the most senior guy was working so hard, it rubbed on us," he added. (ANI)