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India are in a transitional period according to captain Sunil Chhetri

Chhetri believes youth development is the only way forward for Indian Football

Sunil Chhetri is India’s highest goal scorer in history

In an interview with FIFA.com, Sunil Chhetri said that the Indian National team is undergoing transition under manager Stephen Constantine. The team lost their two opening games in the World Cup Qualifiers against Oman and Guam, but Chhetri believes the team has to try their best in the remaining fixtures.

“We are in a transition phase, with a lot of senior players having left, and a lot of young blood coming up. We can’t make a team just like that,” Chhetri was quoted by the governing body of football. 

“What we have to do now is focus on Iran. It is a lovely opportunity for us to play against Iran because they played at the World Cup and are a great side.”

Giving his reaction on the first two games, Chhetri was brutally honest in his assessment of the performance of the players. 

“I thought we did well against Oman, and even though we lost we played really well. We had a penalty disallowed and almost scored [another]. We were happy because we made progress, especially being a new and young team.”

We didn’t show up for the Guam game: Chhetri

“But when we went to Guam we didn’t play particularly well. Even though a lot of reasons were stated, I think the main reason was that the 11 players simply didn’t ‘turn up’ for the game. I have no shame in owning that. It is a mixed feeling, especially because it is a young team,” remarked the 31-year-old.

Chhetri, who is also the captain of his club side Bengaluru FC, is one of the few survivors from the previous regime. In the last eleven games for his country, the Indian Captian has scored nine goals, scoring all the goals for India in the World Cup Qualifiers so far. As a senior player, he believes youngsters can learn more through actions rather than preaching.

“I believe you can make more of an impression through actions than by speaking and preaching. Only by being disciplined and being a good role-model will the young ones follow you.”

When quizzed about the what he feels Indian football needs to improve on, the Arjuna award winner said it was a process just because football has a huge following in India doesn’t mean the National team’s fortune will change in a day. Chhetri feels training and coaching kids at a young age would be the start towards improving the overall standard of the game in India and the Indian Super League, I-League, the AIFF, the fans, players and media all had to play a part in it.

“Our mistake is that because we are India and there is so much interest for football, we tend to believe that everything will change suddenly, which it will not. It is important as a nation that we have proper training and coaching at all levels for kids. How you train is very vital, and that is one aspect we have to improve in our nation,” Chhetri said.

“The sooner that we create an environment and system in which every boy or girl that wants to play football - and if they are good enough - can be provided with good coaching and good facilities, then half our job is done. That is my dream and aspiration for my nation,” he concluded.


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