I owe a lot to Bhaichung, says Chhetri
Only a month back during the SAFF Championship, Sunil Chhetri stayed the cynosure of all eyes at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. A month later, the AIFF Player-of-the-Year is yet to recover from his ankle injury sustained during India's 4-0 triumph against Afghanistan in the final.
Already ruled out of India's exhibition match against Bayern Munich which is also Bhaichung Bhutia's farewell match, Chhetri talks about Bhaichung's influence on his career, his telepathy with the legendary striker and much more.
How much of a disappointment is it for you not to be a part of Bhaichung Bhutia's farewell match?
It's disappointing. He has always been my idol and the last time we played together in the Asian Cup against South Korea, I always felt we would be playing together again for the National Team. But the situation is different now. For any Indian player it's a huge honour to be a part of the match. Unfortunately my injury forces me to sit out. My heart will stay on the field but I would be cheering from the stands.
What have you learnt from Bhaichung over the years?
It's an endless list. But apart from the technical aspects, I have also learnt a lot off the field. The manner he has carried himself has been a lesson for me. The way he looks at and thinks about the game has accelerated my maturity as a player. I owe a lot to him. Apart from Bhaichung, Rennedy Singh has also gone out of the way to help me evolve as a footballer.
Image: Bhaichung Bhutia
'You stay my idol, my role model'
What has been your best moment with Bhaichung so far?
There have been loads of moments, the memories of which I will carry forever. In the six and a half years that I have played with him at the National Team, we have won the AFC Challenge Cup and two Nehru Cups. His presence has been an accelerating agent for the entire squad.
What was it about the telepathy between Bhaichung and you? How did it develop?
It was very easy playing with him as he always makes one comfortable. It's his nature to encourage everybody and I was no exception. And we gelled well off the field too. Our mentalities matched, we loved to hang out together, dine together. For any advice, I just pick up my mobile and dial him. The telepathy just grew up.
That's what makes him great. This is Jeje's (Lalpeklua) first match with Bhaichung but never for a moment has Bhaichung thrown his weight around.
Explain more of Bhaichung.
I can tell you he is a big prankster. We all stayed on our toes as to when he would target us. I wish I could explain his pranks; and he always had the variety. Even Jeje hasn't been spared.
What's your message to Bhaichung Bhutia.
You are an icon. You stay my idol, my role model. It was a privilege playing alongside you. Thank You for all what you have done for me.
Image: Bhaichung Bhutia