Indebted to the sport, my team, says Chhetri as Blue Tigers arrive in Kolkata

KOLKATA: The Blue Tigers have landed in the Mecca of Indian football. Their sights set on the crucial FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait on June 6 at the Salt Lake Stadium.

Any India match in the City of Joy draws much fanfare. However, this is not just any international match. Earn three points, and the Blue Tigers will take a giant leap towards a first-ever appearance in Round 3 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers, while also inching closer to automatic qualification for the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027.

However, the goodly crowd consisting of Indian Football Association (West Bengal) officials, enthusiastic fans, and members of the media, who greeted the Indian Football Team at the Netaji Subhash Chandra International Airport on Wednesday afternoon, would have had their sights on one man.

Captain, leader, legend Sunil Chhetri had, earlier this month, announced that June 6 will be his last appearance in the international arena.

The India skipper, ahead of the team’s travel from Bhubaneswar, where the Blue Tigers had been training for more than two weeks, to Kolkata, wrote on his social media platforms, “These last few days, I’ve been caught in a bit of a dilemma. Now that there’s a number to my days with the National Team, what’s the right route to take – do I count every day, every training session? Or do I simply turn up without the thought of how this is coming to an end?”

For now, Chhetri, who has scored 94 goals from 150 international appearances, is counting his blessings every day.

“Over time, I seemed to have found middle ground. They say, count your blessings. And every single day I get to be on the pitch is a blessing that I’ve never taken for granted,” he wrote. “So I’ve decided to count my sessions, but with a deep sense of gratitude. There’s no apprehension. Instead, there’s a feeling of being indebted to the sport, to my team, that I get to do this.

“If I could, I would capture this feeling in a box. Or instead, I’ll take it to my next training session.”

The India number 11 and the other 26 around him will now continue their training camp in Kolkata, where they will have their first on-field training session on Thursday, May 30.

Also read: AIFF launches Blue Cubs Development Centre programme

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