Sunil Chhetri: Working hard will be my legacy

‘Somebody who worked hard’ – that’s what Sunil Chhetri believes his legacy in Indian football is and will be.

“I think I am somebody who worked hard, I think that's the legacy. Whenever I'm done, I just hope people, especially the kids, remember me,” Chhetri stated in a recent exclusive interview with indiansuperleague.com.

According to the Bengaluru FC ace, while talent is a good platform to have, it can never be a substitute for hard work, especially when it comes to modern football. “You know, when I was growing up, I was always the talented boy, the boy with good technique, a good touch. But that leads you nowhere and it's a fact. Football is so fast growing, it is so competitive, and it's so physical and tactical. You've got to work hard, you have to be the most hardworking one out there,” Chhetri noted, further illustrating his mantra to success.

At 35, Chhetri is the talisman of the Indian football team and the Blue Tigers’ highest goal scorer of all time. While the star striker only seems to be getting better and better, there’s been a lingering concern in the Indian football fraternity about who, if anyone, can take over the iconic captain, legend, leader’s mantle in the national side whenever he opts to hang up his playing boots.

Chhetri, however, reaffirmed he had no intention of ceding his place anytime soon and urged youngsters to become better and work harder than him if they aspire to step into his shoes. “The other day, I was talking to my wife and I was telling her, whenever I'm replaced, whenever it's time for me to go, I just hope he comes because he's better than me and he's more skilful, more talented, more diligent. He shouldn’t come in because I didn't work hard. That is a regret that I will never be able to take. I don't want to regret that I couldn't be in a team because I wasn't working hard enough,” he stated.

On the international stage, Chhetri is the second-highest active scorer, behind Portuguese icon Cristiano Ronaldo and just above Argentine great Lionel Messi. Asked how it felt to be in such elite company, Chhetri noted, “What I feel about the comparison is be happy for three seconds, and then forget about it because there's no comparison in the kind of player these two are, and I am. I'm a fan of both of them.”

“But what I'm really happy about is that I have been able to score so many goals for my country. And I'm really, really happy and proud about it. I'll keep doing it till the time I can. That's all people should think about. Don't dwell too much in comparisons. The moment you wear the jersey, you just want to do everything for the country. And now that I realize that I've got 70 plus goals for my country, I'm really proud of it,” he added.

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