I owe a lot to Bhutia, says Chhetri

I owe a lot to Bhutia, says Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri has been the closest thing to the next Bhaiching Bhutia. The Delhi boy and AIFF player of the year, who will miss his idol Bhutia’s farewell match against Bayern Munich on Tuesday due to an ankle injury, spoke about the Indian icon’s influence on his career and much more.

On missing 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.

On Bhutia’s influence on his career: 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.

On his best memories with Bhutia: 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 with 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.

On his special understanding with Bhutia: 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 from there.

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