A day after Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri was grabbed by the Mumbai City FC for a whopping Rs 1.2 crore at the inaugural player auction of the Indian Super League (ISL), the star striker shared his hopes and expectations for the second season of the football tournament during his maiden visit to Indore on Saturday.
Chhetri was in the city to inaugurate the All-India IPSC Football Tournament (boys) for the U-14 and U-17 categories at the Emerald Heights International School.
“The league will play a crucial role in developing the game in the country of a billion (people). I missed the first season, but witnessed how people extended their support and made the league successful, and I’m sure this season will be no different,” the ace striker said.
As a veteran footballer and Indian captain, Chhetri knows things won’t change in favour of the sport in a country obsessed with cricket overnight. He, however, hopes the ISL will kick things off by generating buzz around the world’s most popular sport. The Indian team will also up its game if it is to draw fans.
Just last month, 174-ranked Guam, a US territory with a population of just 200,000, beat India, ranked 141, 2-1 in the World Cup qualifier. Chhetri said, “It was big setback losing to Guam. But there is no excuse for that. We lost because we were very bad on that particular day.”
Before the Guam loss, India had also lost to Oman 2-1. Two consecutive defeats has dwindled India’s chances of making to the World Cup 2018. India will now take on Iran on September 8 in what can be termed as a must-win encounter.
“We don’t have players like Neymar or Messi in our team, but we have a new team with a lot of young players. First and foremost, (we need to) understand our ability and execute the plan as per the situation. We need some time and I am sure the results we want will start coming,” Chhetri said hopefully.
The question that bothers most football fans in India is why a country of a billion people cannot produce quality footballers. According to the skipper,
“we need to ask whether we are being able to provide for every kid who wants to play. I think we haven’t tapped even 15% of our potential. For this, we need a lot of improvement in infrastructure and this can be done only after government, players, media and corporate houses come together.”