Nothing wrong in being dependent on Chhetri, says former India defender Gouramangi Singh
Former India defender Gouramangi Singh has weighed in on the discussion if the Blue Tigers are a little too dependent on skipper and talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri to get good results in international football.
Following India’s 2-0 win over Bangladesh in their 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifier in Doha earlier this month, head coach Igor Stimac praised Chhetri unequivocally. The 36-year-old Bengaluru FC forward scored both of India’s goals in the second half to take his international tally to 74 goals after which 53-year-old Stimac said: “Last year, many people were asking, ‘when is Sunil going to retire?’ What are we going to do then, if he retires? By far, in every training session, he is our best player.”
Though 35-year-old Gouramangi, who played for Chennaiyin FC and FC Pune City in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) in his playing days, has his own ideas on the matter at hand. "I don't like to use the term overdependent. At the end of the day, if we win or lose, it's a team effort. Yes, there are certain times where Sunil being Sunil can help us. There is nothing wrong in being dependent on him because he has scored 70+ international goals for the country in these years," sportskeeda quoted him as saying.
"Even if we can have 4-5 players with the quality of Sunil and his experience around it, we can be a much stronger team. When Sunil is around, Bipin [Singh], Brandon [Fernandes], Manvir [Singh] and Ashique [Kuruniyan] need to step up. Learn all the tricks from him.
“Try to understand why he has been around for so long. I don't know the secret but playing with him for so many years, I can say he is extremely hardworking. There is no question regarding his dedication or abilities to find ways to motivate himself every day. He keeps going and competes with all the younger boys every day. That's what makes him different and that’s why he is considered an inspiration," Gouramangi added.
Chhetri’s efforts, particularly against Bangladesh, went a long way towards helping India reach the third round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. Among active male footballers at present, only Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and United Arab Emirates’ Ali Mabkhout have scored more goals than him.