Chhetri looks to lead by example as India face higher-ranked Puerto Rico | football | Hindustan Times
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Chhetri looks to lead by example as India face higher-ranked Puerto Rico

Sunil Chhetri, the all-time top scorer for India, believes that leading by example is the best way to pass on his knowledge to the younger players in the squad.

football Updated: Sep 02, 2016 22:29 IST
Sean Sequeira
Sunil Chhetri believes leading by example is the best way to make an impression on the youngsters in the squad.
Sunil Chhetri believes leading by example is the best way to make an impression on the youngsters in the squad.(Virendra Singh Gosain/HT Photo)

Sunil Chhetri, the all-time top scorer for India, believes that leading by example is the best way to pass on his knowledge to the younger players in the squad.

With an average age of 23, India face Puerto Rico with one of their youngest squads in recent years, and Chhetri feels the onus is on the senior players to “do the right things because you know the young ones are watching you”.

Of the 27 assembled in Mumbai, 13 players are below the age of 23 and five are 20 or younger.

“If you talk to the junior players for too long, they get bored. So I’d rather be a bit professional and let them follow me,” he said on the eve of the international friendly against Puerto Rico at the Andheri Sports Complex.

Puerto Rico are currently placed 114 while India are at 152.

“I hadn’t been coached by my seniors when I was younger. The (Bhaichung) Bhutias and the Renedys (Singh) were proper professionals and that’s how we learned.

“I think the same way should continue. That’s how I like to do it,” said the 32-year-old.

Head coach Stephen Constantine’s plan is to build a squad which will stick together for many years.

“I think we have a squad for the next five-six years from these boys. We have tried to make a pool of players wherein every position is a bit of a headache (who to choose to play).”

Constantine’s squad includes six uncapped players.

Asked if he would be giving any of them their senior debut, Constantine said: “It’s always a possibility with me.”

The hosts will be captained by 24-year-old goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the first Indian to play in a top-flight European club and feature in the Europa League.

Apart from Sandhu and Chhetri, the squad includes tough tackling defender Sandesh Jhingan, full-back Narayan Das, deep-lying midfielder Pronay Halder, winger Jackichand Singh and striker Jeje Lalpekhlua.

Constantine hopes the current crop will grow together over the next five years and give results --- the first of which could be competing at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup when India enter the final stage of qualification in March 2017.

“It’s a developmental process. I think the average age of our squad is 23. So it’s about learning and getting better,” Constantine said of his young team.