Asian Cup finals: "Fatherhood has made me a happier, calmer person," says Sunil Chhetri

Talismanic India captain, now 38, says his team is well-prepared for the joust

Indian captain Sunil Chhetri in Doha (photo courtesy: AIFF)
Indian captain Sunil Chhetri in Doha (photo courtesy: AIFF)

NH Sports Bureau

The productivity of Indian captain Sunil Chhetri, 38, must still be an object of envy for the younger members of the team in the upcoming Asian Cup — even though he feels that his recent fatherhood has changed his outlook about life.

It will be his third and certainly final bow in the continental showpiece which gets underway in Doha on Friday, 12 January.  

“I’m so much happier and calmer now. It’s like I’ve had a different responsibility and purpose ever since I became a father—it’s something that I can’t explain,” said the man who is ranked third in the international goal-getters’ list of active footballers with 93 goals—the first two being Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi.

“I’m so fortunate that my wife (Sonam) is doing all the heavy lifting so I can come here and train, play and get my eight hours of sleep,” he said during a chat with the AIFF media team.  

“A lot of people who became fathers before I did had told me about it, but I never understood it back then. But I am certainly much calmer, much cleaner and much happier in life now,” a relaxed Chhetri said. 

It’s been just over a week that the Blue Tigers arrived in Qatar ahead of the Asian Cup, where they have been drawn in Group B alongside Australia (13 January), Uzbekistan (18 January) and Syria (23 January).

“It’s a massive tournament for us, purely because we get to rub shoulders with the best in Asia. Teams like Australia and Uzbekistan are probably of the World Cup level, so you can test yourself against them,” Chhetri said.  

“What is sure is that we have improved in the last seven to eight years. but then you play them and you see how far you are, and how the tempo of the game is. It’s just important to play your best, and generally it’s a good marker for the nation to test where we are,’’ said the man with nearly 19 years of international experience behind him.  

“I had a chat with my wife about the Asian Cup and the World Cup Qualifiers against Afghanistan later, and it seemed to her that I was taking too much pressure with these matches,’’ Chhetri observed. “She told me to just go out there and enjoy."

"You start playing football because you love it," he added. "When we used to play the game with small sides as kids, it was for the enjoyment of the game. But when you become pro, you get bogged down by all the noise and expectations, and the wins and the losses. Sometimes we tend to forget why we started it all. The essence of football is lost.”  

Replying to the obvious query—what still keeps him going—Chhetri said: “It’s all about the mindset of going out there and enjoying it. Of course, you still have to maintain discipline and do all the things that you have to do around football—you can’t forget your duties. But at the end of the day, once you go out there, you should enjoy what you’re doing.”  

“So far, we’ve worked pretty hard over the last week. A lot of us got better in terms of fitness, and some have recovered from the little niggles they were carrying. Everyone seems focused, which has to be a given at this stage. But one thing is that the camaraderie between the boys is absolutely amazing,” he added.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines

/* */