Sunil Chhetri: Keep warning younger players to not make me feel old!
Footballer Sunil Chhetri has been in terrific form over the past few years. As he turns 37 (on August 3), the Indian football team’s captain says his birthday won’t be a big event. “I’m not big on birthday celebrations, and this one won’t be any different. I’m with my club Bengaluru FC at our pre-season camp in Bellary (Karnataka). I’ll begin the day doing what I love the most — being on a football pitch. We’re a tightly knit unit, so it’s safe to say I’ll be around my family on my birthday,” says the skipper.
Does he feel age catching up with him? “I keep warning the younger players to not do things at training that remind me of my age! On a serious note, I’m enjoying every day training and playing football. I feel I can keep going. The hunger, desire, and the joy I get from football hasn’t diminished even the slightest,” shares the striker, who is also a fitness icon. He says a lot of effort goes into keeping him in the best shape of his life, and adds: “I do look up to a few athletes and take the best from them all, but in the end it’s simply wanting to give 100% every single time I play a game, that makes me want to work harder in training.”
Chhetri, whose name has been recommended for Khel Ratna this year, recently became the second highest international goal scorer among active footballers, which placed him ahead of Argentina’s Lionel Messi. Football Delhi has also decided to launch ‘37 Plus League’ involving retired players, on Delhi Football Day, which marks Chhetri’s birthday.
On whether he’s riding a career high, the Arjuna awardee says, “I’m grateful for all the praise, but it’s not something I chase or desire. Does it spur me to work harder? Yes. About the record and Messi, it isn’t even a comparison. He plays at a different level. I am a huge fan of the player and the man.”
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika