Sunil Chhetri hints towards potential international retirement in 2019
What’s the story
Indian football stalwart Sunil Chhetri has turned quite a few heads with his comments that qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup would be the high point of his career and that he’ll find it difficult to find reasons in order to continue playing at the highest level.
Just a fortnight ago, Chhetri scored the winner in the 90th minute of India’s first group stage match of the Asia Cup qualifier against Myanmar.
"The 2019 Asian Cup finals will probably be the last biggest tournament I play. And on that route, this was an important goal. If I play the 2019 finals, there will be very few reasons for me to keep dreaming thereafter," the Bengaluru FC forward stated.
In case you didn’t know...
The Blue Tigers last played in the 2011 Asia Cup, a competition from which they bowed out after losing all their three group matches against Australia, Bahrain and South Korea respectively. However, the then-Kansas City Wizards player did not disappoint and scored two goals in three appearances.
For qualification to the 2019 edition, India have been grouped against Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Macau in the qualification tournament. The top two teams from the group will be qualifying for the continent's biggest footballing extravaganza and India have taken their first step towards it.
The first group match, away to Myanmar was an intensely fought one and the Blue Tigers held on to their nerves and the 32-year-old star made sure the team returns home with all three points in the bag.
The heart of the matter
The Indian legend, who has scored quite a few colossal goals in his career, including the one against Myanmar, gave this huge hint of his retirement at a time when Indian football is on the rise. The Blue Tigers are set to reach their best ranking in 18 years as they, in all probability, will be ranked in the range of 100-110 in the upcoming FIFA rankings.
Having played in the final of the AFC Cup last year with BFC, the forward now has his eyes set on the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. However, the Secunderabad-born attacker made it clear that his club career will continue irrespective of his international career’s status. Chhetri said that he would like to continue with BFC for another three to five years.
The forward also opened up on the performances of fellow Indian players in the match against Myanmar and said that he was proud of the way Jeje Lalpekhlua and Udanta Singh played in the fixture.
India will next play Kyrgyzstan in the qualifiers and Chhetri acknowledged that they might be the toughest competitor for India in the group. He opined that a win against the Kyrgyz team on June 13 will be a giant step towards the qualification for the Asian Cup.
Chhetri has been the flag-bearer of Indian football for quite some time now and has helped the sport reach new heights in the cricket-mad nation. However, the fact that 2019 Asian Cup might be his last tournament, one can only hope that the two-years football fans of the country have in their hands to witness the magician at work, Chhetri reaches unforeseen heights.