A beautiful dream will come to an end on June 6, says Sunil Chhetri

BHUBANESWAR: The journey that began in 2006 in the faraway city of Quetta in Pakistan, will finally come to an end in Kolkata on June 6, 2024, after an eventful 19 years.

Sunil Chhetri, the conquering hero of Indian football’s many folklores, has decided to gently put aside his National Team jersey after playing against Kuwait in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.

On Thursday, May 16, 2024, the National Team captain spoke to AIFF about his latest decision.

Excerpts:

Q: How did you reach this decision?

Sunil Chhetri: It’s been a month. It started with a feeling and an instinct that it was time to call it a day. And it grew in me slowly and steadily every day. Finally, I reached this decision. And I think I made the right decision. This (match against Kuwait on June 6, 2024) is one of the biggest games of my career. It is hugely important for the National Team. So, hopefully, we will do well against Kuwait and should be there for the (World Cup Qualifiers) third round.

Q: Could qualifying for the third round be the best possible way for you to hang up your boots? And you said there’s no pressure on you, but how badly do you want to win this game?

SC: Yeah, but for my own sake, for my own satisfaction, that thing will be a secondary part of the equation. The first thing is to test for the country, man…we’ve got to because this is in our hands, now. We got to win at home to give us a great chance of qualifying for the third round, which we haven’t done yet. And then rub our shoulders with the best in Asia. So, for the country’s sake first, yes. And once we do that, it will be good to think back and remember that my last game was an important one. And I could contribute to our nation being in the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers.

Q: Why did you choose to retire after the June 6 match and not the June 11 tie against Qatar? Because, you know, that could be the match after which we officially qualify for the third round.

SC: Yeah, but then, let’s say it was just an instinct. We’re playing at home, that’s in Salt Lake. It will not be the same. And I’m pretty confident this way or that way. Even if you need some points against Qatar, our team is quite capable. I think my team is ready. So, everything combined to make me decide that June 6 is my last game for the country.

Q: If you could sum up your 19-year legacy as a national team player, briefly.

SC: It’s outstanding. It’s a dream. I don’t know where to start. But the synopsis is that it’s a beautiful dream. I think I’m highly, highly fortunate and privileged to be a part of the national team for 19 years. It’s outstanding to be able to participate and play for the country. This is something no one can take away from me. I’m grateful to everyone who has contributed. And I’m not trying to sound cliche, I genuinely mean it. That’s the feeling that I get.

Q: Personally, what does this decision mean for you, your family and your life?

SC: It was a mixed feeling.But when I did tell them, everyone understood. I believe my entire family is proud of whatever I have accomplished. I’ve done this for 19 years. They are immensely happy. I think it’s one of those things that everyone knew was coming. But when I told them, they were a little bit shocked but understood that I’m fighting my own battles inside. You don’t wish to stop playing for the country. But one day you have to and you will be fine.

Also Read: RFDL is the ultimate scouting platform – Thangboi Singto, Hyderabad FC Head Coach

Also Read: Punjab FC, East Bengal FC to lock horns in Reliance Foundation Development League 2023 – 24 final after emerging triumphant in semis

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