Grabbing his chances, Chhetri leaves a mark

Nigerians have dominated the I-League goal-scoring charts ever since its inception in the year 2007-08.

After Odafa Okolie took the top honours for three consecutive years between 2008 and 2010 for Churchill Brothers, Ranti Martins took home the award for the top goal-scorer the subsequent three years.

But their sole proprietorship over that particular award came to a halt – at least for the time being — as BFC’s Sunil Chhetri and Salgaocar’s Darryl Duffy shared the honours with 14 strikes each in the latest edition.

There is also some confusion regarding the number of goals that Shillong Lajong’s Cornell Glen has scored, with the AIFF officials unable to throw light on the exact figure.

In fact, the Bengaluru FC skipper’s haul of 14 is the joint-highest by an Indian in I-League history. Mohammad Rafi had scored the same number of goals for Mahindra United in the 2009-10 season.

Chhetri’s achievement is interesting because of two facts: he started the season slowly and was shunted out to the left side – a position where he has never played before.

Speaking just before the team’s departure for the Federation Cup in January, Chhetri revealed that those two things overlapped: “In the beginning of the season, we had an issue because we only play with one striker and it’s not good for the team because two of three (either Robin Singh, Sean Rooney or myself) will have to sit out,” he said.

“So the coach (Ashley Westwood) knew that he wanted someone and he chose me and I am sure he saw something. Initially I was a little bit concerned because I have never played that position before but now I am getting a hang of it,” he opined.

Chhetri actually started the opening few games of the season from the bench as he was getting accustomed to his new role.

The goals did not seem to come and his running resembled that of a bull fighter trying to evade the beast.

But after going on a scoring spree just before the start of the winter break, Chhetri became more confident in his new role.

He became more vocal and started ordering traffic on the field, a symbol of a good leader.

And after having been in the wilderness at both Portugal and the United States (Kansas City Wizards) over the last five years, could this be the beginning of an upturn in his fortunes? There are suggestions that it may well be.
 

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