Indian Football

For Sunil Chhetri, the cause of the team is far more important than personal records

The 32-year-old recently became the highest Indian goal-scorer in the I-League.

Since Bhaichung Bhutia hung up his boots, Sunil Chhetri has seamlessly moved in to become the country’s leading personality on the footballing sphere. Earlier this week, he became the leading Indian goal-scorer in league football to go with his existing record as top-scorer of India’s national team. The fact that he surpassed Bhutia to reach the landmarks, underscores their impact on the game in India.

For Chhetri who is 32, more goals are obviously on the mind, but more than anything, he is in search of someone who can quickly overcome his tally of 90 goals.

“Obviously, I would like to keep scoring a lot more,” Chhetri said. “But, yes I hope someone surpasses my tally. What it’ll mean is, if someone breaks this record, he will score for the national team also. If Bhaichung would have been asked about it, would he want someone else to break his record he would have said the same thing. Now I have more goals than him in the league and it has all helped contribute towards India,” he said.

Searching for the next Chhetri

After Chhetri and Bhutia, the next highest Indian goal-scorer in league football is Abhishek Yadav with 40 goals. By contrast, international players such as Ranti Martins and Odafa Onyeka Okolie have scored over 150 goals in the I-League apiece.

“Apart from I, Bhaichung, Jeje (Lalpekhlua) there are not many who have played games day in day out. Most teams play with two foreign strikers, Which Indian striker can you think of who plays every other day. Robin Singh has just started getting opportunities to start. But, definitely we need more Indian strikers into games, because the gap is huge,” Chhetri lamented.

Asked if he felt Indian football was headed in the right direction, Chhetri said the roadmap being prepared by the All India Football Federation for the future of Indian football was not clear, stating that it was “difficult” for players to stay motivated with the looming uncertainty.

‘Players need to stick together’

“It is difficult. We had a meeting of the Football Players Association of India. It is difficult. We (players) need to stick together. What the AIFF in collaboration with ISL, I-League decide is not in our hands. But, if we the players stick together will matter. If we come together then they will have take our voice and only then what we say will be important. We all want a clear road-map. It is not there right now, but I hope all the big think tanks are doing their job and we will see what the future holds.”

Since making his debut in 2002, Chhetri has been at the centre of India’s footballing progress, both in the league system as well as the national team. His Bengaluru and India teammates call him “bhai” and its no surprise that he is kept on a pedestal when Indian players speak about him.

With the FPAI, Chhetri has chosen to take the lead and is at the centre of the movement. But, when on the field, he prefers to focus on the game at hand and not delve too much into the aura that is created around him, at least in the Indian football fraternity. With most senior players phasing out of the national team over the past decade, Chhetri alongside Subrata Pal has become the one on whom most players look towards for guidance. To his credit, Chhetri has played the part to the T, but prefers to adopt a cautious approach while treading along the thin line that separates a captain from a teammate.

“In football, you can turn from a hero to villain instantly. My 90th goal was followed by a missed penalty that robbed us of all three points. May be its my age, nobody said anything to me. I am sure they would have liked to abuse me. But the beauty of the game is that one always gets a chance to make amends in two-three days.”

Does the added responsibility weight down the seasoned player?

“As a senior player I try not to think of it too much. As a person of seniority the one thing that has changed is that one cannot falter. When I was young I could take risks. As you grow older, especially when you become captain, you have to lead by example, be the first on the ground, eat right, sleep well. That is what I do and that’s how people follow. As soon as you start lecturing, that is when people don’t follow. That is the example that players like Bhaichung set for us. They showed us the way. It is what we try to do.”

Image credit: AFP
Image credit: AFP

‘We should not take Asian Cup draw lightly’

India have been drawn alongside Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Macau in the qualifying stages of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, a draw that many believe is favourable towards India, Chhetri though feels India would do well to not get complacent.

“It would be a huge mistake if we considered this as a favourable draw. We have always been handed tough draws in the past so that is why people will assume this time it will be easier. But that is not the case,” he said.

“Myanmar outplayed us and beat us 1-0 the last time we faced them. Kyrgyzstan are doing really well and we don’t even know anything about Macau,” he added.

Chhetri insisted that all the players who are called up would need to be at the top of their game, and fit enough to hit the ground running.

“Whoever the gaffer (coach Stephen Constantine) selects for the qualifiers, I hope they report to the national camp in the best shape possible. Especially in our case and that of the Mohun Bagan players, we have AFC Cup commitments so we will be playing a match every 3-4 days. I just hope no one gets injured because we need our full strength team at Myanmar.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

Watch Billions Now

2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

Watch Westworld Now

3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

Watch Big Little Lies Now

4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

Watch The Night Of Now

5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

Watch American Horror Story Now

6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

Watch Empire Now

7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

Watch Modern Family Now

8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

Watch The Deuce Now

9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

Available starting October

10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

Watch Rome Now

For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.