India national team and Kerala Blasters midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad has revealed what India captain Sunil Chhetri said to him the first time the pair trained together in the national camp in 2019. He spoke about the influence he has had on him as a footballer.
During an Instagram live interview from the official Indian Football Team handle (@indianfootball), Sahal was asked about his experiences with Chhetri in the national team.
He replied, “When I went to the national camp for the first time and was moving to the ground for practice, me and him (Chhetri) were walking together and he put his hand around my shoulder. And I’m not lying, it’s true, you can ask him if you want – he was like, ‘Sahal, there’s nothing like pressure, nothing. And it’s just football. Do everything that you do for your club, don’t pressurize yourself at all."
“From that day, I understood what kind of a person he is. And after that when I got selected for the national team for the first time (King’s Cup in Thailand, June 2019) and we played together, I gained more experience from him for sure. As I said, he loves giving advice all the time, which is a really good thing about him. He always sits with the young players, for dinner, lunch, breakfast, everything,” Sahal Abdul Samad said.
Sahal Abdul Samad's stock has risen rapidly in Indian football since making his ISL debut in 2017 under David James. Samad became a regular starter for Kerala Blasters in the 2018-19 Indian Super League season and is widely regarded as one of the most technically skilled players in the country at the moment, even though he was not a regular starter under Eelco Schattorie in the 2018 season.
Chhetri has previously gone on record to say, “If that guy (Sahal) understands the kind of potential he has, and maintains his body and puts his head on his shoulder, he’s an extremely gifted talent."
Sahal Abdul Samad recalls when he got a talking to from Chhetri
The Kerala midfielder also mentioned another instance where he, Kamaljit Singh, Anirudh Thapa and Amarjit Singh were given a talking to by Chhetri, when the latter stressed on the importance of being professional in one’s approach as a footballer.
“Once, he stopped me, Kamaljit, Thapa, and Amarjit, and he gave us some special advice (smiles). That was the best advice. It was on how to become a professional player and nobody had ever said that to me so clearly before,” Sahal Abdul Samad said.
“We all got that into our minds, and he spoke about the importance of hard work, practice and rest and nutrition. I won’t ever forget that meeting which we had together. It was special for me. If you ask me about more experiences with him, I could mention so many. But this one was the best,” Sahal Abdul Samad added.
With the ISL season just a few months away, Sahal Abdul Samad is expected to play a significant role in Kerala Blasters’ season, and with former Mohun Bagan I-League winning manager Kibu Vicuna taking over the reins, fans are excited to see what this relationship could potentially blossom into.Published 23 Sep 2020, 19:26 IST