Sunil Chhetri is a name all Maldivian football fans are well aware of and he has been terrorizing Maldivian football for over 10 years. A remarkable player and a great human being. Already scored 53 goals in 93 appearances for Indian National Team, Chhetri spoke on a wide range of topics with Maldivesoccer.com after their win against Maziya last week.
Firstly, congratulations on winning Tuesdays AFC Cup match against Maziya in the last second. How important was the win and how do you feel winning in the last second?
It feels really good. It’s not an easy task to come and take three points against a team like Maziya, especially when we play at their home. Maziya has always been a difficult team for us. Even in 2015 when we played here against them, we conceded the goal first and then we scored two goals. It was also a difficult match for us. But now, at the end of the day, it feels really good to take three points.
Credit to the whole team, we didn’t give up. We kept knocking on the door, it was not easy. The ground was also not very favorable to us and the heat was also not helping us either. But we kept on trying and trying and finally John saw the back of the net.
A similar thing happened at Yangon few days back when Indian National team played against Myanmar in the Asian Cup Qualifiers. You scored the winner in the 89th minute.
After the game, when you are at the end of receiving three points, you always feel good. Myanmar was a difficult game. They had more possession than us. The whole match was very hard; we had to defend a lot. And scoring a goal in a counter attack and winning the game was really good also because Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Macau and we (India) are in the group and winning an away match gives an added chance of qualifying. Everyone does well at home and winning points away is always good.
Since you won the opener, which also happened to be an away game, what are the chances of qualifying for Asian Cup for India now?
It’s too early to think about that. We still have five more games to go. We have already seen Myanmar a very tough side, and they will be even stronger when they come and play with us. And Macau did really well against Kirgizstan so we cannot take Macau lightly, and Kirgizstan the highest ranked team among the group. I think it’s important to win the home games and also get away points. We need to win at least another three or four game to secure Asian Cup.
Maldives is always tough to play against. It has always been really difficult against Maldives. We lost against Maldives in SAFF Championship in Sri Lanka in 2008, apart from that I don’t think we lost against Maldives but believe me it’s always difficult against Maldives. They have always been a tough opponent for us and whenever we play against Maldives it is an exciting affair which has never been easy. Your captain Ali Ashfaq has been one of the best players I have ever played against.
Do you think Maldivian players have got the potentials to play in the I-League?
Definitely Maldives has produced very good players who can compete at the I- League easily. Ali Ashfaq was offered couple of times. Even I personally asked him to come play in the I-League. Who knows, at any time a Maldivian player may join the I-League.
You personally asked Ashfaq to come to I-League?
Yes. After the SAFF Cup I did ask him to come. Also there were couple of teams who called me for Ashfaq’s number, but I don’t know why the deal didn’t go through. I know for a fact that teams were interested on signing him.
And what did he tell?
You should ask Ashfaq (laughing)
Are you in touch with him?
Not anymore. But we were in touch two or three years back. We used to message each other. Now we are not in touch. Where is he now? Is he in Sri Lanka? Will he play anymore or finished playing?
He is suffering from an injury and we all hope he will come back.
I wish too.
Who is your favorite Maldivian Player?
Obviously Ali Ashfaq is the best player not only in Maldives, but in the region as well. My favorite Maldivian player is the former number five of the national team (Fazeel). I love seeing him play. He is so sharp and such an intelligent player. He controls the whole midfield and run all over the field. Fazeel is a very good player.
Have you ever been offered to play for a Maldivian team or will you consider a move if you get an offer?
I have never been offered by a Maldivian side so far. But if an offer comes, who knows? Maldives is such a nice place with so kindhearted people. The fans are amazing. Anyone would love to play here.
How would you describe your experience in Europe and United States?
It was really good at Kansas and at Lisbon. I learned a lot. The experience at the States and in Europe made me a better player. I learned a lot over there. It definitely made me a better player.
India is set to host U17 Fifa World Cup. How importantly this will affect Indian football and how do you foresee the future of Indian football?
That’s a very good boost for us. Especially for the younger generations. Once the tournament finishes then the real job starts. It’s a great opportunity for us, and we have to show the world that we can be a good host. I am expecting to see a very enjoyable tournament.
You are 32 years now. How long will you play?
Who knows? Six year, five years or eight years? Who knows? But the day when I think that the motivation has gone, and I can’t compete with the players, I will leave. But I am enjoying football right now; I am in the best stage. I am physically fit, scoring goals and winning games.
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and it is same for every player. As long as you are physically fit and you have the hunger for it you keep going. And when the time comes that I can’t contribute to the team anymore, I will leave. I love what I am doing, I live in a dream and I will keep fighting.
Thank you very much Chhetri. Thank you for giving us sometime from your busy schedule.
You are welcome and it’s an honor to speak with you. Thank you very much. And thank you for the wonderful hospitality.
Note: Photos used in this article are available to purchase online via images.mv