Coaches salute Sunil Chhetri's work ethic
From a spirited young boy eager to make a mark to ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’, the past 15 years have seen Sunil Chhetri evolve as one of the prominent figures in Indian football.
However, one thing that hasn’t changed about the Indian football great is his hunger to improve.
If the former coaches who have seen him grow from close quarters are to be believed, it’s Sunil Chhetri’s dedication and never-say-die attitude that has helped him stay relevant is a highly demanding environment.
“I haven’t seen anyone as dedicated as Sunil,” Sukhwinder Singh, who handed Sunil Chhetri his international debut in 2005, told AIFF media in a recent interview.
It was at JCT Mills - a Punjab-based club that competed in the domestic league - that one of India’s most revered coaches, Sukhwinder Singh, saw the true potential that was on offer in Sunil Chhetri.
“I saw him maturing in JCT and there were flashes of what he could do in the future. I still remember his hunger. In 19 years of my coaching career, I haven't seen anyone as dedicated as Sunil.
“He remained undaunted and was never willing to shy away from working hard,” said Sukhwinder Singh, who led JCT to the league title in the 1996-97 season.
Sunil Chhetri and the fire in the belly
It’s been 15 years since, but the hunger is still intact. His dedication and work ethic is next to none and the experiences he’s gained from playing across the globe, there’s no surprise that Sunil Chhetri is one of the most sought after players in the country.
“Dedicated, workaholic and team man - those are some of the attributes which define Sunil Chhetri,” opined Igor Stimac, the head coach of the Indian team.
“When I first saw him last year, they were back to the National Team camp after a long gap following the AFC Asian Cup. A few boys were new but the fire under his belly probably was more than anyone else. That's the secret of his long career,” he head coach attested.
Meanwhile, the former Bengaluru FC head coach Ashley Westwood, under whom the Indian great was reborn following a barren spell in foreign leagues, believes that Sunil Chhetri is the apt role model for anyone who wishes to make it big in football.
“His application, his attitude, and everything he does off the field. He has gone on to be India's best player ever, and probably best there ever will be,” said Westwood speaking to Injury Time podcast.
“He's definitely a role model for every Indian footballer. It's going to take a lot to knock that off him -- to score the number of goals he has scored for the national team in the number of games played.
“Out there, week in, week out, hardly ever gets injured because he looks after himself correctly,” the former Manchester United academy graduate reasoned.