How Mary Kom inspired Sunil Chhetri to push himself above and beyond

Picture Courtesy: AFC Media

Sunil Chhetri is nothing short of a role model for every youth in the country. For years, the 34-year-old has inspired and motivated millions, on and off the football field, with his dedication to his craft and the single-minded determination to succeed, no matter how big the challenge. The Sunil Chhetri story is familiar to most, but what moulded the qualities we all have come to love about India's very own captain, leader and legend? According to the man himself, it's none other than India's boxing icon MC Mary Kom.

Having been named the AIFF Player of the Year for the sixth time earlier in the week, Chhetri, in an interview with the AIFF website, spoke about his admiration for the iconic pugilist and stated, "I gather motivation from all around me - from a lot of personalities who have done well in their respective fields. MC Mary Kom is one of them. She is an unbelievable story. She is a 6-time World champion, and have been a World Champion after giving birth to twins, and even after being a mother of three. Besides, she has 14 Gold medals in all, including the Asian Games, the Asian Championships, the CWG Games, and others. If she doesn’t inspire India, who else will. I am her biggest fan."

Speaking about the trait he respected the most about Mary Kom, Chhetri added, "Her never say die attitude. Nothing is too late, everything is possible. There are phases in life which surface at times, and it makes you understand that despite you working hard, everything that you are doing is probably not enough. That’s when you need to look around, and beyond. You need to look at what other people are doing. A prime example stays Mary Kom. That’s when the understanding creeps up - that you need to push yourself more."

Standing among the role models

Asked about his inspirations from the footballing world, Chhetri revealed, "There are two gentlemen named Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi. In the last 10-11 years, they have completely dominated the world of football. If they don’t score in 2-3 matches, people start speaking that ‘they are out of form.’ Whenever I am stressed or tired, I always think about these guys. And it falls into place for me." Incidentally, Chhetri is the man who stands between the two global superstars in the list of the highest active scorers on the international stage. Ronaldo leads the chart with 88 goals, followed by Chhetri on 70. Messi is in third place with 68 strikes for Argentina.

Chhetri also commented on the recent honour bestowed upon him by the AIFF and opined, "The Award is the added motivation to do better, and it reminds me of my responsibility. Honestly, I have never got the time, or ever have I sat back and thought of what, and how much have I achieved. I am just happy that I am playing for my country, and that I am training. I am enjoying it. I never think about 100+ games, or whatever number of goals, 6 AIFF Best Player awards. That I have kept aside to speak about over a drink when I retire."

"Of course, I feel proud especially when people keep reminding you that almost all records are in your name - and here you are talking about a country’s history. But I don’t take it too seriously. I don’t take it to my heart. I don’t get carried away. I know for a fact that it’s not going to last for ever. From someone who never dreamt of playing for the country, or never even thought of making it professional – now holding almost all the records the country has – is unbelievable," he added.

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