Having faced one of the toughest moments of his career when his team Bengaluru FC lost in the final of the AFC Cup, one would be forgiven for thinking that Sunil Chhetri would need a few days off to recharge his batteries. However, the 32-year-old made a return to his second club Mumbai City FC just two days later.
In a freewheeling chat ahead of Mumbai’s Indian Super League match against Chennaiyin FC on Wednesday, Chhetri spoke to HT about facing heartbreak with Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup, how playing for Mumbai City FC is helping him get over that heartbreak and what’s he learning from Mumbai teammate Diego Forlan. Excerpts from an interview:
On the heartbreak with Bengaluru FC
After the AFC Cup final defeat, we had just one day to forget it as many of us flew back to join their ISL clubs. That’s the kind of profession we are in. Even if we had won, we cannot be dwelling on it. We didn’t have time to analyse, but after a loss like that it’s a good thing. We were heartbroken.
It was a huge opportunity for us as a club and country. Only good part about that game was we gave it our 100 percent. There’s no shame after the game that we didn’t turn up or we didn’t fight. You have to switch. It’s not fair on yourself or the team you’re joining to think about what’s happened. You just forget about it and try and be of as much help as possible.
On making a quick switch from Bengaluru FC to Mumbai City FC
The way we play there (with Bengaluru) is different. We have a different coach and a little different mindset. We had Ashley Westwood coaching us at Bengaluru. Then Albert Roca came in. But we had one and a half months to prepare. In that phase, he told us exactly how he wanted us to play and we adjusted to it. But here, I played for Mumbai just days after landing here. To go to the field and train and understand when days are less, that’s where experience helps.
How has it been working with Mumbai City FC coach
The best part is that Mumbai have a coach now (Alexandre Guimaraes), and I’m not trying to compare, who knows exactly what he wants from the team and from me. He did talk to me when I was with Bengaluru FC where he told me exactly what he wanted from me. We spoke about things like the formation. So the transition wasn’t difficult.
When I came over here, I had already seen most of the games and had watched how they were playing. It wasn’t difficult. It is just different because suddenly you come from a different set-up to a different role with a different team. That’s where you have to use your experience.
What he’s learning from Diego Forlan
The beauty of it is, most of what you learn from a guy like Diego is just by watching him. Talking to a player helps, but in our sport the majority of learning happens from watching another player. You pick up things like being punctual, being nice to everyone, making sure you give your 100 per cent even in training. He doesn’t have that mindset that ‘I’m Diego Forlan, I’m not going to train and just play matches’. He just comes to train every day and behaves like he is one of us.