Bengaluru FC’s India striker Sunil Chhetri trains at the Cooperage stadium yesterday ahead of Saturday’s I-League encounter against Mumbai FC. Pic/Suresh Karkera
For India's leading all-time goal-scorer (National Football League (NFL) and I-League combined), Sunil Chhetri is a rather unselfish individual.
He scored his 90th goal, in Aizawl on Wednesday (one more than the previous highest scorer, Baichung Bhutia), but instead of taking pride in his achievement, Chhetri is hoping someone eclipses his mark sooner rather than later.
“I hope someone breaks my record because that will mean that he will go on to score more goals for the national team, and that will be good for the country,” Chhetri, who is in the city to represent his club, Bengaluru FC as they take on Mumbai FC in the I-League on Saturday, told reporters after a practice session at the Cooperage yesterday.
Chhetri’s record though pales in comparison with that of imported strikers like Ranti Martins and Odafa Okolie — both of whom have scored over than 150 times. Chhetri said that’s because very few Indian strikers enjoy more match time.
“Unfortunately, here in our country, besides from Baichung, Jeje (Lalpekhlua) and myself, not many Indian strikers get that many opportunities to play day in day out. You need to play more games to score more goals, but right now, that’s not happening.
“We must have more Indian strikers to star more games if we need my record to be broken but most clubs play with foreign strikers, so it’s difficult. I’m all for competition but in the current scenario, Indian strikers are getting very few chances to play,” rued the I-League defending champions’ star striker.
India next play in the third round of the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers and have been drawn alongside Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau in the group with the top two teams set to go through. It’s expected to be a good group from India’s point of view but Chhetri warns against getting complacent.
“We have always got tough draws with no chance of progressing, so some people feel this is a favourable draw, but it isn’t. The last time we played Myanmar away, we lost 0-1. We don’t know anything about Macau. Kyrgyzstan is playing well too, so it’s not going to be easy,” he added.