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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Sunil Chhetri & his love for Luxury Cars...

Team JFM  |  Tuff-Questions  |  2 Months Ago

What’s that one name that comes to your heart thinking of Indian football? Sunil Chhetri, isn’t it? 

 

The Lord of the 90 minutes — As someone rightly called him!!

 

I started following football at the age of 17 and I’m now 28. If there’s one thing that I’ve seen in my years as a football fan is that no footballer has grown this strong than Sunil Chhetri— With least attention and appreciation, minus a few years lately. A product of Mohun Bagan SAIL Football Academy, where he trained for three years before making grand plans about his future, his start as a footballer wasn’t as smooth. He had his own share of struggles and scrambles on the road. Though despite hiccups, Chhetri showed glimpses of greatness at a very tender age that even the yesteryear great Bhaichung Bhutia named him the “Best Indian Footballer Alive” back in 2011. 

 

 

Today, the boy who struggled to plump for the right path for himself to become a “star” enjoys the highest-ever paid Indian footballer tag, besides being “The G.O.A.T.” and compared with the likes of Messi and Ronaldo. 

 

I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with tags”, said Sunil when asked how it feels to be a superstar in the country of a billion. “It does feel nice to get the support I do but more than anything, I am grateful for everything that football has given me and the love the fans shower me with plays a big part in that. ”

 

Chhetri’s first pay cheque was ₹75,000— his salary for three months— of which he withdrew ₹30,000 in cash and blew up at a Kolkata mall. It took his father’s intervention to calm the frenzy. “Since then, I started giving my salary to my father. I do it even now. He portions out pocket money for me every month. If I kept all my money, I would probably have 10 sports cars and no house to live in,” said the 34-year-old to Forbes. 



Cut to 2018, Chhetri does have a few luxury cars, a bike and “at least 10 gadgets that I don’t need,” but has also built up appreciating assets, like a house at Bengaluru’s upscale Lavelle Road. And somewhere along the way, from the shadows of the Mohun Bagan heavyweights, he has turned into India’s highest-paid footballer with a ₹1.5 crore tag, earned maximum international caps (102) after Bhutia (104), and counted amongst the likes of Messi and Ronaldo for scoring many goals for India. He’s as prolific in the domestic league too, leading his club Bengaluru FC to I-League titles in its debut season in 2013-14 and again in 2015-2016, to the runners-up position in the Indian Super League in 2017 and to the finals of the prestigious AFC Cup in 2016, the first for any Indian soccer outfit. 

 

(This Image is from Auto Expo 2011 and it's not known if Sunil Chhetri owns this car)

 

Hey, you heard the man connecting with fans over Twitter or the other social events?

 

Sunil, over the recent past we’ve seen that you’re an eloquent speaker, great footballer, a witty comedian, an inspirer and so much more. Which role do you think you enjoy doing the most? asks Rohit Ganguly from Kolkata

I enjoy being on the pitch the most and that isn’t difficult to guess. Everything else that I have been able to do, is because of football. I enjoy my time off the pitch too but I’m most comfortable on it.

 

Sunil’s stature is no less than a god among the fans of Indian football— A Football loving god. You see him play and you fall for him, that’s the kind of aura he’s thrived to maintain over the past few years and Sunil credits Bengaluru FC for this. 

 

“We have been very fortunate at Bengaluru FC to always have struck gold with the kind of coaches we have had. Ashley, Albert and Carles – all are fantastic coaches who have kept on adding to the team and to me personally”, said Sunil to Jersey. 





We have seen Bengaluru FC to be an imperative success right since their inception. What do you think they’re doing differently which others should follow in order to up their game? asks Pulkit Verma from New Dehi

Bengaluru FC has done things different right from day one. Like I mentioned before, the club and everybody involved with it, wants to improve every single day. You want to be part of an atmosphere like that. There’s a genuine attempt at being professional in every single aspect and that’s what is special about the club. 

 

Who has been the best coach you have worked with until date and how has he been an inspiration? asks Nitish Bhan from Mumbai

I cannot really put my finger on one coach. Everyone who I have been under, I have learnt from— some, more than the others. But I have always learnt. 

 

Well, Sunil ditched this tricky one and blew up the fun, however what we’ve heard from our close sources is that Sunil always speaks highly of Westwood more than the others and the same gesture is reciprocated often on live TV shows by the Englishman. The two shared brilliant chemistry on the field and understood each other well. This implies pretty much to workout a guess. Isn’t it?

 

The fan culture in the ISL is depleting every year. This year it has been on its all time low. Do you think it’s the marquee players that attracted eyeballs, or you feel the clubs/league is missing out on the basics? asks Sabari Jagannathan from Bengaluru

That’s for every club to speak about. We’ve had good crowds at the Kanteerava and it’s going to be a process to keep building it. Everyone involved with the sport in India has got to keep doing more.

 

 

We’ve seen on Twitter that you share an extremely fun relationship with Gurpreet. Any special incident(funny) would you like to share in your BFC dressing that you can always laugh at… asks Venkat MH from Chennai

Gurpreet is a funny guy. He’s massive in size but he’s a gentle giant of sorts. The thing about him is that he doesn’t really try hard at being funny, it just comes naturally to him! There’s no particular incident because we have laughs in everyday conversation.

 

You’ve always been known to be a great footballer, but the turnaround came in your career after you signed for Bengaluru FC. We’d like you to share the factors that are responsible for making Sunil Chhetri the Superstar that he is today? asks Nikhil Vaswani from Jaipur

Like I said before, there’s a desire at this club to get better every day. Not that it’s the case otherwise at other clubs, just that you can see the change every single day, every single season. Yes, we do have phases where we struggle, but the success easily outweighs the disappointments. I’ve been blessed with fantastic coaches and teammates at the club, all of whom have pushed me to get better. 

 

(The Signature Sunil Chhetri pose)

 

Recently on social media, a post comparing you and Virat Kohli went viral. Do you think that Indian football fanbase will come stronger someday to take over cricket? asks Pulkit Verma from New Delhi

It surely is stronger than what it was before, but there’s so much more that needs to be done. What I’ve noticed is the increase in awareness. I don’t really think we should look at cricket as a comparison. Indian football has a long way to go in every aspect. Let’s just focus on being a better version of ourselves with every passing season.

 

One last question to round it off, you are currently amongst the top-5 active scorers in the world, and there’s already enough buzz about it. How does it feel to share such a unique record with some of the greatest footballers of the universe? asks Sabari Jagannathan from Bengaluru

I’m humbled. Any plaudit I receive will always be the result of so many people around me who have helped me to get better and who have made life outside the pitch easier for me so I can focus on my football and nothing more.


Who's been a bigger Ambassador of football in India?
I. M. Vijayan
Bhaichung Bhutia
Robin Singh
Sunil Chhetri





 

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