Indian team head coach Igor Stimac on Sunday hailed Sunil Chhetri, saying the marvelous captain was one of those who “glorified” Indian football with his hard work and dedication in the 15 years of his illustrious career.
The 35 year old Sunil Chhetri became only the second Indian after legendary Bhaichung Bhutia to complete 15 years in Indian jersey. He made his debut in 2005 against Pakistan in Quetta in a friendly match. He had scored in the 1-1 drawn game.
According to Stimac, Chhetri is someone who always runs the extra yard, breaks some more sweat during training sessions, which encourages youngsters to look up to him.
“I see him as someone who always pushes the bar in training and never compromises with the regime. He drives the team and he is the character who defines the team. Numerous characters have glorified the Indian football history and he’s definitely one of them who have made his country proud,” the Croatian tactician said.
Fire in the belly secret to Sunil Chhetri’s long career
“Dedicated, workaholic and team man – those are some of the attributes which define Sunil Chhetri,” he said in a release issued by the All India Football Federation.
The former Croatian World Cupper, who took charge of the national team last year, recalled seeing Chhetri during the preparatory camp ahead of the King’s Cup 2019 – his maiden assignment with the Blue Tigers.
He pointed out that despite being the senior-most member of the team, Chhetri toiled maximum to achieve positive results after the heartbreak in AFC Asian Cup.
“When I first saw him last year, they were back to the National Team camp after a long gap following the AFC Asian Cup. A few boys were new but the fire under his belly probably was more than anyone else. That’s the secret of his long career. Congratulations!” Stimac said.
Former India coach Sukhwinder Singh who led India in the match against Pakistan in 2005 also lauded Sunil Chhetri for his distinguished career for India.
“I haven’t seen anyone as dedicated as Sunil,” Sukhwinder said.
“I saw him maturing in JCT and there were flashes of what he could do in the future. I still remember his hunger. In 19 years of my coaching career, I haven’t seen anyone as dedicated as Sunil. He remained undaunted and was never willing to shy away from working hard.
“Shouldering the responsibility for 15 years demands discipline and he keeps it above everything else.”