Beyond The Era Of Sunil Chhetri - Eastern Mirror
Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Beyond the Era of Sunil Chhetri

By The Editorial Team Updated: Jun 13, 2024 11:17 pm

They say all good things must come to an end. The retirement of Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri marked the end of an era but not before leaving an indelible mark on the struggling sport in India. He hung his boots after playing the FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait on June 6, ending nearly two decades of his illustrious career. Tributes poured in for the Indian football icon, with the world governing body FIFA leading the pack. The Asian Football Confederation, Croatian captain Luka Modric, legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, former Indian skipper Bhaichung Bhutia and several other big names too bid adieu to Chhetri, though not so much in India for a sportsperson of his stature, who scored 94 international goals in 151 matches for the country and helped win several titles, including Nehru Cup, SAFF Championship and AFC Challenge Cup. Unlike Indian cricket team, which has many big hitters capable of winning games even in the absence of experienced players, the 39-year-old Khel Ratna Awardee had to play the role of a one-man army in Indian football. He was expected to score goals for his country every time he took to the field and he delivered on most occasions amid such unprecedented pressure. He carried the hopes of the nation for nearly two decades, kept Indian footfall alive till his retirement and entertained the lovers of the sport from across the world with his footballing skills. That’s not an easy feat. In fact, he outperformed expectations, surpassing almost all the records set by his predecessors.

Even as we celebrate this incredible journey of one of the greatest Indian footballers of all time, which lasted for 19 years, it is also obvious that Indian football is in for an acid test for more reasons than one. When football star IM Vijayan retired, there was Bhaichung Bhutia to take the sport forward. When Bhutia retired, Chhetri took over the mantle and quite efficiently at that. Now, who is after Chhetri? While the answer may not be readily available, the new development has exposed the core issue that has been plaguing Indian football all these years — over-reliance on a couple of star players. This trend is certainly not healthy for any sport in the long run. Chhetri’s absence will surely be felt both on and off the field but it should be taken as an opportunity to concentrate on building bench strength because football is teamwork at the end of the day. Efforts should be made to identify young talents from across the country and provide them with all the help they need to become professionals. Such efforts will help produce many stars and make the Indian national football team a formidable one. Besides that, young footballers should draw inspiration from the hard work, passion and professionalism displayed by football greats.

By The Editorial Team Updated: Jun 13, 2024 11:17:34 pm
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