Sunil Chhetri: Playing with top players in Hero ISL has helped us grow
In its five years of existence, the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) has been a boon to Indian football, helping players grow by exposing them to top talents from around the globe, according to Sunil Chhetri.
A day prior to India's Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 match against DPR Korea, Chhetri, in a short interview, gave out his personal views on how the Hero ISL has improved Indian players and the country's football in general. "There has been a lot of good changes (post Hero ISL). The way the boys take care of themselves and the way they think about football has changed," he opined.
Citing teammate Sandesh Jhingan as a prime example, India's all-time highest goal scorer delved deeper into his claims and explained, "Sandesh is much more aware than any other player from 10-15 years back. He's much more knowledgeable. He is much more equipped to do well. Has the Hero ISL helped? Definitely! I told this to Sandesh that when we played the likes of Thailand, UAE and Bahrain (in the AFC Asian Cup 2019), he didn't face a Ferran Corominas or a Miku or a Manuel Lanzarote. But in the league, he faces them."
"With all due respect to these three teams, and I think they are top teams, they didn't have a Miku, or a Coro, or Dimas Delgado, or a Bartholomew Ogbeche. These are good players. I am not saying they are world-class, but these are top players. So, our players like Sandesh, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Anas Edathodika - they have been playing against them or training alongside them and improved," he added.
Despite the national team doing exceptionally well in the last few years, there has been some discontent among sections of the fanbase about the progress achieved so far. Addressing the matter, Chhetri explained, "Whatever good things we are seeing is because of the guys have been training with good players, are seeing good things and have been trying to replicate them. These are small things that have changed in the last five years. But where we want to reach is here (very high), so whatever we do will be less. We need to put our head down and keep working."
Chhetri’s viewpoints echoed the thoughts of his India and Bengaluru FC teammate Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who in an earlier interview attributed the last five years to have witnessed significant development in Indian football. "We have grown a lot, especially in the last five years. I have personally seen the young talent that we have. Our youth teams – the U16s, U15s -- the players possess great technical abilities, and have great awareness. The senior players have grown in terms of their mentalities as well," the ace custodian had stated.