Asian Games 2018: India will go to Asian Cup more prepared this time, says Sunil Chhetri

The India captain said he is skipping next month’s SAFF Cup in Bangladesh and has had a word with national coach Stephen Constantine about it.

football Updated: Aug 17, 2018 08:42 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
asian games,sunil chhetri,indian football
Sunil Chhetri (right) receives the Sportsperson of the Year award from West Bengal state sport minister Arup Biswas (second from right), tennis legend Akhtar Ali (third from right) and Arun Ghosh, who was part of the India team that won gold in the Asian Games football event in 1962.(HT Photo)

Football in India may not have rapid strides in terms of performance --- the upswing there is always a long haul --- but Sunil Chhetri said there has been tangible improvement.

“When I started out 15 years ago, we would go for pre-seasons in Kalyani (near Kolkata) and Kolkata teams would play each other. Now, teams go for pre-seasons in Spain. We played a Villarreal team and one from Barcelona as part of our pre-seasons this time. It is not easy to play teams where all 11 are good with the ball. Barcelona B gave us a schooling in football; I ran 15 km and didn’t see much of the ball but us getting there is a sign of improvement,” said Chhetri here on Thursday.

Chhetri, 34, was here to receive the Sportsperson of the Year award from the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club at its annual award ceremony.

When conversation shifted to India’s chances in the Asian Cup next January, Chhetri said the main difference is that the team this time would be more prepared going into what Indian footballers call their ‘World Cup.’

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“We are better prepared this time. When we went in 2011, we weren’t really that prepared. But since then, our players have gained international exposure. It will be tough, don’t say that a group comprising Bahrain, UAE and Thailand is any easier that South Korea, Australia and Bahrain of 2011. I just hope there are no injuries going into the competition,” said Chhetri.

“It’s about making sure that you defend well, be more compact and making sure that you don’t give many chances to the opponents. At the end of the day, how we play depends on the coach.”

The India captain said he is skipping next month’s SAFF Cup in Bangladesh and has had a word with national coach Stephen Constantine about it. The coach said he wants to bring junior players and Chhetri felt that is the right way.

On India missing out on the Asian Games, Chhetri said: “This is a government thing. If the boys had got a chance, it would have been lovely. Any tournament the age-group teams play is great and I just hope in the future we can rectify that. India is not going to win medals all of a sudden. I just hope in future all authorities can help in that.”

First Published: Aug 17, 2018 08:41 IST