Sunil Chhetri: It’s all about holding your nerves

Bengaluru FC take on FC Goa in a tough away fixture in their second match of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Monday. Both teams involved were the finalists last season, with Bengaluru registering a late victory against the Gaurs to win the trophy. 

Ahead of the tie, Bengaluru FC and the Indian national team talisman Sunil Chhetri joined for an exclusive interview and discussed the rivalry between the two sides, expectations from the match and more. Here are the excerpts. 

On facing FC Goa for the first time since the 2018-19 Hero ISL final.  

We did see the videos from the last match that we played against them (FC Goa), and a few others also. They have the same team, so we have an idea of how they play. But what has happened in the past will have no effect on the upcoming match. 

Both Bengaluru FC and FC Goa have retained their core group of players. Does it add to the rivalry? 

It does a little bit. If you ask any of the players from either of the teams, they know a little too much of each other. In a way, it’s good for both the teams. It’s a battle for who can surprise the other because we know most things about each other. Both head coaches have a similar philosophy. We’ve played them before and know what they’re like and I’m sure they can say the same about us. It comes down to holding your nerves and being the better team on that day as far as fitness is concerned. 

On facing players (in FC Goa) who are also part of the Indian national team?  

When we play for the national team, we have a different coach, so when we play for the national team, it’s about what Igor (Stimac) wants. So, players like Mandar (Rao Dessai) and Brandon (Fernandes) and the rest of us follow what the national team (head coach) wants. When we go back to the clubs, it's a different thing. Mandar, Brandon and I are very friendly to each other but on 28th, there will be a war. I know that, they know that. That’s been the case when we face FC Goa.  

Has Bengaluru FC changed its approach with the new signings? 

The system is the same, the philosophy is the same. We just have some great inclusions. It was really good to have Raphael (Augusto) in our team. He has been outstanding for Chennaiyin FC. It was massive for us to get Eugeneson (Lyngdoh) back, not only because he’s done so well for us in the past but he’s also a club legend. We’re also very excited about (Manuel) Onwu. He has a lot to offer us. Ashique (Kuruniyan) is a very, very exciting player. We have huge hopes for him, not only for the club but also the country. I think we will see the best of Ashique in the coming years. Some great inclusions. We’re strong as a team, we’ve backed ourselves. It’s just that now we must work very hard and give the coach a lot of problems when he picks the starting XI.  

On how Ashique Kuruniyan has settled in at Bengaluru FC?  

It’s been pretty good. He understands things, he picks up things fast and he’s dynamic. He’s a good boy and someone who is very hungry to learn. I think here at our club (Bengaluru FC) all the senior players including me, help him and the other younger players as much as possible so that we can get the best out of them.  

Read the Match Preview here.


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