Don't need papers for me to stay at Bengaluru FC: Sunil Chhetri
Hero Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Bengaluru FC has recently confirmed that 38-year-old Sunil Chhetri has signed a new one-year deal with the club, with an option for an additional year.
Hero Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Bengaluru FC has recently confirmed that Sunil Chhetri has signed a new one-year deal with the club, with an option for an additional year.
The announcement was made after India's win over Lebanon in the SAFF Championship semi-final on Saturday, where they unveiled a banner to commemorate the occasion.
The Blues' captain will remain at Sree Kanteerava Stadium for the 11th season of his career after deciding to extend his stay in the Garden City of India.
The icon of Indian football, who turns 39 in August, emphatically reiterated that his future at the club was never in doubt, highlighting the strong and unwavering bond he shares with Bengaluru FC.
“I think every time when I'm about to sign, I think ‘ah, it's cliché’. It's going to be a normal routine, but when I end up signing the contract it feels good. It feels special,” Chhetri told BFC TV.
“I don't know exactly how to say in what way it feels special, but I've never thought that you know, I require these papers or stuff that is written on this for me to stay here. And I'm not trying to be philosophical, but yeah, it feels routine and special at the same time,” he explained.
“The process of signing is not stressful. It doesn't take much time. The negotiation does not take too much time. So, yeah, I think, I feel more like an employee at JSW and there isn't much that has changed in the contracts for the last 10-11 years, just a few numbers here and there and that's it,” Chhetri further added.
Chhetri has been with Bengaluru FC since their inception in 2013. The talismanic striker joined them as captain and still continues to don the captain's armband. Since making his debut in 2013, he has made over 250 appearances in all competitions and scored 116 goals – both of which are club records.
The Blues' long-serving player has been their top scorer on seven occasions and has won seven trophies during this period. However, being already 38, Chhetri now feels that this could be the dusk of his club career, considering he would be 40 when his contract ends.
“The last time I signed for three years, I was asked the same question, and I had no answer. (But) I think now that I'm signing this two-year deal, probably have I'm more clear (idea) that this is going to be the last one,” Chhetri stated.
Considering the remarkable career he has enjoyed, there was never any doubt that he would garner lucrative offers from other clubs. Commenting on this, he disclosed that numerous clubs expressed interest in signing him.
However, he consistently emphasised that he never entertained the thought of leaving the club due to the profound mutual love and respect he shares with Bengaluru FC.
“Me not thinking about going anywhere else even when there were some generous offers from some amazing clubs, (but this) is where I understood the power of the fans.”
“But then the moment when I think about coming to (Sree) Kanteerava (Stadium) and wearing some other jersey and playing against BFC. It’s not a nice feeling and suddenly you realize ‘What is this? This cannot happen. This shouldn't happen!’" the striker shared his emotions.
Besides his connection with the fans, Chhetri also mentioned other factors that have made his decision to sign an extension with Bengaluru FC easier.
“My family, my wife, the way we feel over here in Bengaluru, all these things, helped me make up my mind. But on the pitch and what I feel for the club, the vision that we share is probably the most important thing why I’ve been and why I’m signing (the contract) today,” he said.
“The way I feel at this club, what me and the club have gone through the last ten years is probably the most important reason why I'm signing this,” Chhetri added.
Both BFC and Chhetri had a difficult start to the 2022-23 season but they made a remarkable comeback and ultimately finished in a position that truly reflected their efforts. Nonetheless, the sting of the two final losses still lingers for Chhetri.
“The Super Cup Final because there is an AFC berth there. Hero ISL final because of the magnitude of the tournament and also the AFC berth. That’s something that has happened recently and we're still hurting. That’s something that we will love to rectify as a player. (But) it’s not easy,” he said.
Chhetri recalled another memorable moment when they reached the final of the AFC Cup in 2016. It was a remarkable achievement, as they were just one step away from claiming the coveted trophy. Unfortunately, they faced a defeat in the final, losing 1-0 to Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya of Iraq.
“When I look back, the AFC cup that we lost is something that I always feel that we should get a shot at it again. And now it’s a journey because you have to be the Indian champions and then you get a (chance),” the 38-year-old stated.
Now, setting aside all emotions, the Blues' captain believes he still has some unfinished business with the club that he wishes to fulfill in the upcoming seasons.
Chhetri wants to conclude his career on a high note, minimizing any moments of regret so that he doesn't have any lingering "I wished" sentiments when he eventually hangs up his boots in a few years.
“I want to improve the next year as a player I really think there is so much that I can improve on. Be a better player, train with better players, train under a better coaching system,” he stated.
“The thing is, once you are done, whenever that is, you are done. Then it just “Agar yeh kar liya hota” (“what if I had done this …’”). I wish I could have done this and that. I want as less of ‘I wished’ as possible when I leave and that's why I'm going to give everything that I've got in the next two years,” Chhetri signed off!
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