Hope my I-League record is broken, will be great for national team: Sunil Chhetri | football | Hindustan Times
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Hope my I-League record is broken, will be great for national team: Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri also holds the record for most goals scored for the national team having notched 51 in 91 appearances.

football Updated: Feb 17, 2017 19:33 IST
Sean Sequeira
Sunil Chhetri scored the 90th goal of his National Football League (NFL) and I-League combined career .
Sunil Chhetri scored the 90th goal of his National Football League (NFL) and I-League combined career .(PTI)

National team skipper Sunil Chhetri urged Indian strikers to make better use of their limited chances in the I-League so that his recently-set goal-scoring record would be broken soon.

Chhetri scored the 90th goal of his National Football League (NFL) and I-League combined career in Bengaluru FC’s 1-1 draw at Aizawl FC on Wednesday. The goal saw him overtake Bhaichung Bhutia as leading Indian scorer of the country’s top-tier football league.

Now, preparing to take on Mumbai FC at Cooperage ground on Saturday, Chhetri revealed that he would be happy if his record is broken soon as it would reap benefits for the national side.

“I hope somebody breaks the record. What it will mean is that if there is some striker scoring 100 goals [in league matches], he will be scoring for the national team also. It will be good for the country,” Chhetri told reporters after Bengaluru FC’s training session on Friday.

Chhetri also holds the record for most goals scored for the national team having notched 51 in 91 appearances. Just as with the domestic record, Chhetri overtook Bhutia’s tally to become leading goal-scorer. He believes both records have gone hand-in-hand.

Although Chhetri has topped the Indian scorer’s list, he is still far short of the exploits of Nigerians Ranti Martins and Odafa Okolie, both of whom have scored over 150 NFL/I-League goals.

Chhetri feels Indian players need more time on the field and have to take their chances if they hope to better the records of foreign internationals playing in the country.

“The worst part is apart from me, Bhaichung and Jeje Lalpekhlua, you don’t see Indian strikers playing day-in and day-out. To get a chance to score goals, you need to be playing day-in and day-out. That’s very important.

“We have to have more strikers to start games [if they want to break the record]. Most clubs play with foreign strikers so it becomes difficult. I’m all for competition but when you look at it, Indian strikers get very few chances’” he said.

Chhetri’s Bengaluru FC have toiled through this I-League season despite being defending champions. They visit Mumbai having gone five matches without a win which Chhetri described as uncharacteristic.

When asked about what the team needs to do, Chhetri said: “Score goals”.

“The amount of chances we have missed is unbelievable. The goals that we are missing are going to hurt us, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

The veteran striker will also be leading the national team into the third round of the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers. India has been drawn in a group with Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau with the top two teams of the group qualifying for the tournament.

India’s first group match is a visit to Myanmar on March 28. Chhetri recalled the last time he faced Myanmar away in March 2013, they had beaten India 0-1 in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, denying the Blue Tigers progression to the 2015 Asian Cup.

While the group is believed to be favourable for India, Chhetri has warned against complacency based on false assurance.

“That’s one mistake we shouldn’t make [think of the qualifying group as favourable]. All my life, we have always got top draws where there was no chance of progressing. So that’s why people think now it is a favourable draw but it isn’t,” he said.

“The last time we played Myanmar away, we lost 0-1 and they played very well. We don’t know anything about Macau. Kyrgyzstan is doing really well. It is not going to be easy.”