Chhetri all praise for Wangjam, says the midfielder is far ahead at 20 years of age
Sunil Chhetri believes his Bengaluru FC and India team-mate Suresh Wangjam is a special talent. Speaking on the latest episode of Football United, the Blue Tigers and Blues skipper said he finds the 20-year-old midfielder extremely hard-working and that bodes well for his future.
“The desire to learn and improve [in Wangjam strikes him]. It’s not a coincidence that he has played in all five games for India [earlier this year, two in Dubai and three in Doha]. That is something I haven’t seen in last 17 years that I have been playing for my country. When a young kid comes, he has to wait for his chances a long, long time. His mentor Gurpreet Singh Sandhu [a light-hearted reference] jokingly says that he had to wait six years to get his first XI jersey.”
Wangjam, in his turn, was also effusive in praise of his country and club captain. Against Bangladesh last month, it was Wangjam’s cutback from the right that had allowed Chhetri to unleash his second goal of the game. “There is a lot of things to learn from him, even in training, he wants to win every training session. Everyone knows he is 36 years old but he works very hard. Sometimes when I do core exercises with him, I get tired but he goes on [doing them],” he said.
If this is something Chhetri would advise his 20-year-old self? “I would give probably myself different advice because I know what panned out. I know what mistakes I made and what works for me now. But this boy [Wangjam] is far ahead of a 20-year-old Chhetri,” the India captain, who has 74 international goals to his name, said.
Wangjam, Emerging Player of the Month for December in 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL), made his India debut earlier this year against Oman in a friendly match at Dubai. Talking about that game, he said: “I was so happy. I wasn’t thinking I would get into the starting XI. I would say thank you to the coach [Igor Stimac] for believing in me and giving me the opportunity.”
Bengaluru FC will soon play Maldivian side Club Eagles in their AFC Cup play-off. If the Blues can beat them, they will join 2020-21 Hero ISL finalists ATK Mohun Bagan, Maldives’ Maziya Sports & Recreation and Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings in Group D (South Zone).