HUZHOU, 11th October 2018 : National Team Captain Sunil Chhetri has always been a player whom the youngsters look up to and the lynchpin has always delivered to the team’s cause. In a freewheeling chat session with www.the-aiff.com in Suzhou, the living legend discussed many a thing including his motivation to take on China after missing the last National Team fixture away from home, the importance of this match before the Asian Cup, the quality of China under coach Marcelo Lippi and much more.
India are going to face China after 21 years. What’s your feeling?
I’m happy that we are playing a team like China. It’s strange that we are playing them after so long. We should have played them more often. I’m very excited because they are a quality opponent and they have always been a respected side in Asia.
To face them at their home is going to be a tough challenge but this is a challenge that we should face now. Our form away from home hasn’t been particularly very good. This is a great opportunity for us to take a good account of ourselves.
You were not there in our last away fixture when we played the Kyrgyz Republic. How pumped up are you before this fixture?
I don’t take too much pressure on myself. I’m happy that I’m back to the team once again, that too for an away fixture. It’s very difficult but it’s something where I want to be.
Thank God, everyone seems to be fit, I’m fit too. I can’t just wait to go out there and give our best on Saturday.
Do you have any personal goals to accomplish?
I have never thought about my personal goals. If you focus on personal goals, then you’ll go in a different direction where you don’t actually want to head. We are a team and that’s the most important thing. I’m one of the senior players, actually, the senior most player (chuckles) and I have my responsibility towards the team. What we achieve individually is important but it’s never ever more than the team does.
China is being coached by Marcelo Lippi. How much dangerous are they at home?
Forget about China — any team who’s not as fancy as China are always threatening at their home. China are one of the Asian teams who are doing really great in Football of late. The League has gone from strength to strength and the National team has benefitted from that under a respectable coach like Marcelo Lippi. That’s going to be the perfect challenge that we need to assess ourselves. We have done really well in the last couple of years but now it’ll help us gauge ourselves before the Asian Cup.
Is it going to be a big test for the defenders in particular?
We have to defend really well. By the look and feel, I believe we have to do a lot of defending. We should not afford them much space. At the same time, whenever we find a little room of opportunity, we have to construct the moves and counter them. To sum it up, it’s a game where we must be at the top of our game in every single department. If we are not being able to combine well and operate as a team, then they’ll make us struggle a lot.
We haven’t done particularly well away from our home. We need to better our records and it’s the time to do so. I just hope we can utilise this opportunity to go back and give a good account of ourselves. We have to convince ourselves first that yes, we are improving. Come January, it will be very difficult for us and we have to be ready for that.