Chhetri reflects on a fabulous career, Hernandez and Krasniqi expect a competitive season in the latest episode of Football United

The eighth edition of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) will be special for more than one reason.

It will be the first-ever season that will witness the participation of a Khel Ratna awardee, as the living legend of Indian football, Sunil Chhetri was recently conferred with the esteemed Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport on November 2, 2021.

In a candid chat with Anant Tyagi and Maurya Mondal in the latest episode of Football United, Chhetri reflected on a fabulous career, while Odisha FC duo Javi Hernández and Liridon Krasniqi gave a glimpse into their time at the club.

Having served his country for over 15 years, and having propelled himself among the leading goalscorers in international football history, it seems fitting that the Blue Tigers’ skipper is the first Indian footballer to be bestowed with this prestigious honour.

“Now that I have processed it I feel really fortunate, I feel really honoured, and also seeing the kind of happiness and the jubilation in the eyes of my family, friends, and everyone around, it gives me a lot of joy,” he said, reacting to the announcement.

In a journey that has taken him from the bustling crowds of Kolkata to the quaint shores of Lisbon, and finally, to the passionate support of the Kanteerava, the striker has never let the standards drop, delivering his very best at every stage of his career.

Talking about what drives him even after all these years, the veteran remarked, “I don’t have many games left, so it gives me that added motivation that you live once and you already have a very blessed life.  You have been able to do what many people have only dreamt of, you’ve been very fortunate because of the help of so many players you’ve played with for 19 years, so now I just want to take every day and enjoy it and give my best.”

Away from Bengaluru and Chhetri’s celebrations, Odisha FC’s overseas recruits Javi Hernández and Liridon Krasniqi chipped in with a few insights on their time with their new club so far. Although Hernandez has become a familiar figure in the Hero ISL with him set to play his third season in the country, Malaysian midfielder Krasniqi has arrived in India for the first time.

“I had a great conversation and great communication with the staff before I joined here (Odisha FC). They convinced me to finally make this step, and it is known that I am very flexible, I have been around in different countries, and I always like a new journey,” revealed Krasniqi on what persuaded him to explore an opportunity in the Indian subcontinent.

Hernández who has featured 37 times in his time in the City of Joy, is well aware of the intensity and competitive nature of the league. The attacking midfielder would be aiming to revive Odisha FC’s fortunes and guide them to glory, after a disappointing 2020-21 season.

Sharing his views on the competition ahead of the upcoming campaign, the Spaniard said, “I am excited to start the season and I think all the teams are very equal. This year, maybe ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC have a better team because they reached the finals last year, but the rest, I think they are very equal, I don’t think there is too much difference between the teams.”

Odisha FC will take the field for their first game of the season against Chhetri’s Bengaluru FC on November 24, while the Blues kick off their campaign against Northeast United FC on November 20.


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