Following on from my very first article on Indian football yesterday this piece of blog looks at the promising talent of one of India’s up and coming sportsperson. Sunil Chetri is currently on the spotlight that very few Indian footballer dreams of in this cricket crazy country. Yet the Delhi boy, born in the picturesque hilly town of Darjeeling at the foothills of the Himalayas who could have represented Nepal through his parentage, is keeping his feet firmly on the ground and carrying on the long journey of football stardom rarely experienced in this country. Under the guidance of national coach Bob Houghton, Chetri has been able to develop himself as a potential successor of Bhaichung Bhutia, the current Indian national team captain who for years has been the sole flag bearer of a stumbling football nation.
Bhutia’s experience at the highest level has been of great help to Chetri, the protégé. Both the players have developed a very close relationship between themselves over the past two and a half years under Bobby Houghton and their close friendship has been evident on the football pitch too as the two helped India win the prestigious Nehru Cup and the AFC Challenge Cup at home in 2007 and 2008. With Bhaichung clearly entering into the twilight of his massive decade-long international career, the 24 year old Sunil Chetri has been provided with an added responsibility of leading India’s strike force into the next generation.
Being short in stature did not hinder Sunil to pursue a career in football which here in India is a very dicey career choice.
Starting off in a local Delhi club was all that he wanted and his talents brought the attention of big national clubs in the forms of Mohun Bagan, JCT Mills and East Bengal. Currently playing for Calcutta giants East Bengal, Chetri has already drawn attention of English League One side Leeds United and several second division Portuguese sides like Estoril Praia and Liga de Honra have offered him the passport to a career in Europe. While the offers from the Portuguese clubs came during the Indian team’s visit to Portugal in summer for a preparatory camp, Bob Houghton is using his own English source to land Chetri in the United Kingdom. When asked about a potential move to England following on the footsteps of idol Bhaichung Bhutia, who spent two seasons at Bury FC, the lion-hearted Gurkha lad brushed aside the suggestions saying he is happy honing his skills at his current club East Bengal although he did hint that moving on to the west would be a dream turn of events in his already shining short career.
According to the 2007 national player of the year, scoring goals is his prime objective and his main aim is to work with Bob Houghton as closely as possible at the international level to nurture the intricacies of a glorious international career.
2009 could prove to be an important year for Chetri and India as Houghton’s boys embark on a new international year preparing in earnest for the Asia Cup in 2011 and the 2012 Olympic qualifiers. This could be the year when finally Sunil Chetri gets his chance to prove himself for a foreign club, be it Leeds or any club.
The diminutive striker may not have high-profile skills but his ability to get behind the defence with sheer pace in addition to his tremendous ball control and shooting are important traits that could be utilized at a very high level, be it international or club levels. With Mr.Houghton encouraging Indian players to head to the west by following into the footsteps of their Chinese, Japanese and Korean counterparts, Indians might not have to wait long to see one of their countrymen plying his trade in the green pastures of European football community.
Make us believe it Sunil.