Indian football team defender Rahul Bheke revealed that he received his first call from Sunil Chhetri when he was first called up to the senior national team in 2019.

The duo were teammates at Bengaluru FC from 2017 to 2021 before Bheke made the switch to Mumbai City FC. Both have been consistent members of the national team for the past few years. 

Making his debut against Curacao in 2019, the Mumbai-born defender has played in 29 games for the Blue Tigers, including scoring a goal against Bahrain.

Recently, India football team captain Sunil Chhetri announced that he would retire from the Blue Tigers after the Kuwait game in Kolkata. Bheke had the privilege of sharing the dressing room with his captain, both in his club and international career. Recalling their journey, the 33-year-old defender reminisced about their first meeting and how close they’ve grown over the years.

"I still remember the first day I met him. We were in Mumbai, I think, back in the 2016-17 season, and played a five-a-side game. From that day till today, it's been a great journey for us. We have shared countless victories and unforgettable memories. He's been an inspiration to all of us," Bheke recalled in an interview with

"He was the first person to give me a call when I got called for the national camp for the first time. I'm so happy to have shared the pitch with him, and I just want to thank him for all the memories and the lessons he has given to all the players and for being an inspiration to the whole nation," he added.

Bheke expressed his overwhelming emotions while sharing their countless off-the-field memories over the past couple of years.

Speaking about his captain’s guidance and camaraderie with him and his fellow teammates, Bheke remarked, "Yes, we share a lot of things off the field. We spend a lot of time together. Sometimes, we go out together. He talks to not just me but all the players about off-the-pitch stuff, things about life, what mistakes he's done and what he's learned. He guides players about their football careers.”

“His relationship with me has always been very good. Whether in the national camp or in the club. So he is, you know, like a big brother," the defender further said.

The Mumbai City FC defender is optimistic about delivering a promising performance in their forthcoming FIFA World Cup Qualifier match against Kuwait on June 6. India sits second in their World Cup qualifying group, tied with third-placed Afghanistan, and need a win to keep their hopes of qualifying for the third round alive, a feat they've never achieved before.

Known for his ability to adapt to any position in the defensive third, Bheke brings commendable leadership qualities both on and off the field, which significantly boosts the squad. With Sandesh Jhingan set to miss the Kuwait match due to injury, Bheke could feature in the starting eleven.

Sharing the squad’s mindset and approach for the high-voltage match, Bheke said, "We have a big stage right in front of us, so I hope we do well and qualify for the next round, which will be a great achievement for the country. We're positive. The way the camp is going on and the way everyone is training, I can see that there is a positive atmosphere in the team.”

“Everyone is looking forward to that game. We're all working on ourselves and getting better in shape," he carried on.