First of all, Chhetri has not started 11 of Bengaluru FC’s last 12 games in the ISL. Second, he hasn’t scored a goal for the Indian national team since June 2022. Third, with the caveat that rest and recovery are equally important, the Indian captain is convinced that by playing more, you get better.
So when asked how he prepares to play almost every three days in Indian summer conditions, the 38-year-old Chhetri said the following: With a big smile. What happens: When we play for our clubs, the manner of play changes a bit. Four foreigners are an integral part of every team, so you have to adapt in the national team.
It took Lallianzuala Chhante and Bipin Singh 18-20 games and the Durand Cup to achieve the kind of camaraderie they found with Ahmed Jakhuh, Apuya (Lalenmavia Ralte), Jorge Diaz and Craig Stewart at Mumbai City FC, Chhetri said. He said more training and more games would help the national team, in which some players such as Nandhakumar Sekar are newcomers, understand each other and get rid of mistakes.
India will play Mongolia, Vanuatu and Lebanon in the Intercontinental Cup (June 9-18) and Kuwait, Nepal and Pakistan in the SAFF championship (June 21-July 4). We don’t know much about Vanuatu and Mongolia, so it will be a good test, Chhetri said. But the games against Lebanon and Kuwait will help India prepare for the Asia Cup match against Syria, he said.
India is in Group B along with Australia, Syria and Uzbekistan in next January’s Asian Cup, the highest international competition on the continent. It seems a little tougher than last time, but we always knew the Asia Cup would be tough, Chhetri said at a virtual press conference Saturday.
In 2019, India is in a group with Thailand, the UAE and Bahrain. India beat Thailand 4-1, lost 0-2 to the UAE and, needing a draw to advance to the Round of 16, lost 0-1 to Bahrain on penalties in penalty time.
We had some good performances, but in some moments we were not very good, especially in the second half against Bahrain. We are thinking about being as difficult an opponent as possible. Many teams that are outsiders have shown us, one name that comes to mind is Morocco, that if you are organized, you can create difficulties for other teams. That is our main goal.
In 2011, coming backinto elite Asian soccer after 27 years, India was placed in a group with Australia, South Korea and Bahrain. Chhetri is India’s only link between the three editions.The excitement and pride are constant, he said. What has changed is, I think, more confidence, more knowledge.
Chhetri didn’t just speak for himself. He said the team that goes to Qatar next January will have more information about the teams and more knowledge about the competition than the 2019 team and certainly the 2011 team.
Chhtery said he welcomes the ban on imports in the state leagues, but it’s a catch-22 when it comes to following Stimack’s suggestion that only Indians should be considered for the center forward position. Sivasakti Narayanan, whom Chhetri said he is sure India will be hearing a lot about in the next few months, had a breakout season because Bengaluru FC trusted him, he said.
Roy Krishna and Sunil Chhetri missed games, and in all those games Sivasakti started. I know it’s an anomaly, but if you perform well, the club won’t care if you’re a foreign national. Because the club wants to win. Goals will only come when you play, but Indian strikers will also have to work a little harder (as opposed to, say, goalkeeper, defenders or wingers) because they are competing with foreigners. But the club will also have to trust them. Simon (Grayson, coach of Bengaluru FC) did that, and look what we got.