One of India’s most popular football players, Sunil Chhetri, began scoring goals at a very young age. “When I was young, I never thought I would make football my profession,” he says. The sportsman, who plays for a popular club and is also part of the Indian national football team, speaks with HT Café about growing up with football and his equation with Ranbir Kapoor.
Was football always your passion?
Both my mom and dad were football players. They loved the game, so I began playing too, and enjoyed it as a kid. It was only after Class 12 that I realised I wanted to take it further.
Did you face any struggles?
The infrastructure wasn’t great. My father is a humble Army guy, and we had a tight budget. But my parents were supportive. I had to pay attention to my academics; that was the only thing expected of me and my sister. Otherwise, they never said no to the things that I wanted to do.
Ranbir Kapoor owns the football team that you are playing for. What is the one quality about him that you admire?
He is a great guy. When we meet, we talk about sports. And I have never felt that I am meeting an actor. What I like about him is that even though he is popular, he is quite humble. I like this about John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan too; they have the same attitude. They are also heavily involved in football.
Cricket is a rage in India. How do you think other sports can be brought to the fore?
We do really well in cricket, which is amazing. We have a great hockey team. Everyone who is involved in sports should understand that the more we do better in different sports, the better it is for our country. Whenever a Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza or Bhaichung Bhutia wins, the country wins. However, every sport should get equal opportunities and platforms.
What is your dream for football?
It is doing very well. Several kids play the sport. The only thing we have to improve is that the kids, who are good at the sport, should have access to proper coaching and centres that monitor [their progress]. We need to nourish talents with good infrastructure, and that goes for any other sport, not only football. You need the right people to identify talent at the right age.
Some sports stars have tried their hand at acting. How about you?
No, I don’t wish to (laughs). I am very happy with what I am doing [playing football]. And I have worked really hard at what I have been doing. But, you never know what is going to happen in life. It requires great skills to do what they [actors] are doing.
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
I never see it like that. My father told me, “Talent will give you nothing unless you are ready to put in the hard work.” I may lose or win, but I will always give my best.
Do you plan your life?
No, I am not. I just focus on the next match. You don’t know what is going to happen in two weeks. I only focus on giving my best in the next game.