"My dream for my country is really huge:" Sunil Chhetri describes his dream for this Indian football team post three back-to-back titles.

Sunil Chhetri, the captain of the Indian football team has the dream of watching this team become one of the top 10 teams in Asia.

Koushik Biswas
New Update

After three back-to-back international titles, the captain of the Indian football team now wants the team not to get ahead of themselves as his dream for this team is really big. Sunil Chhetri, the 38-year-old Indian striker, wants this team to be in the list of top 10 Asian teams in future. He believes, with the confidence the team now have, if they can tirelessly work hard, this is achievable.

In the last two months, the Indian team first won the tri-nation tournament in Manipur. Then, went on to win the Hero Intercontinental Trophy in Bhubaneshwar. The final triumph for the blue tigers came at the SAFF Championship when they defeated Kuwait in the final.

During a virtual press meet, the Indian team captain said, "This is just the start. I hope everyone who is a stakeholder in Indian football understands this; this is just a very, very small start. We are just taking baby steps."

"Where we want to reach is very far:" Sunil Chhetri


Sunil guiding his teammates in the SAFF Championship 2023. Image: AIFF

Although captain Sunil Chhetri is very happy with the progress the Indian football team is making, he now wants the team to keep their head down and work for bigger goals.

"My dream for my country is really huge. For that, we all have to keep our heads down and keep working hard. And that is very, very important. I hope we do not get carried away for the small good steps that we are taking. We should be happy because we've worked hard. But, where we want to reach is very far," Sunil told the media.

Read Also: "That's all I have": Sunil Chhetri has a message for every Indian fan

With the way the Indian football team is growing, Sunil feels this Indian team can become one of the top ten teams in Asia.

"That's always my realistic target. That's where I want to be, that's where I want to see my country, that we have to get in the first level of Asia, stay there. And the reason why I'm saying first 10 is it's not going to be easy. It's not gonna be easy at all, but to get there and to stay there because we are gonna keep rubbing our shoulders with the best in Asia, and we'll know exactly how far we are," Sunil shared his realistic goals for the Indian football team.

Sunil targets Kings Cup and other tournaments as preparation for the AFC Asian Cup

With all the focus on the AFC Asian Cup, where India will go toe to toe against stronger teams like Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria, the striker feels, it would be their best opportunity to check where they are in terms of the best teams in Asia. For that, tournaments like the Kings Cup and SAFF Championship, where they battled against Lebanon and Kuwait, will come in handy.

"When you start winning games, it adds to your confidence. The good part is that when we meet teams like Iraq (King's Cup), we get to gauge ourselves and know where we stand against teams of a certain standard. We've already played well against Lebanon and Kuwait, so we know where we stand against Syria, who are probably a notch higher but are of a similar quality."

Read Also: It was a small gesture the whole team wanted to do:" Sunil Chhetri on handing the SAFF Championship trophy to team manager Velu Dhayalamani

Despite all the chants on the Asian Cup, Sunil wants the team to focus on short-term goals and then build on them. "I don't know about targets for the Asian Cup or the World Cup Qualifiers, but we are going to take things on a short-term basis and keep fighting. This is what I've been telling the whole team," Sunil added.

As the Indian football team rose to higher standards on the 4th of July, many more fans have now started following the game. Sunil believes this is really good that people will now follow Indian football, and this will put invisible pressure on everyone associated with Indian football to perform.

"This limelight that we're getting, we all like it, but we cannot get ahead of ourselves. There is an invisible pressure on everyone, and we like it; we enjoy it. It's not just us players or coaches, but everyone – AIFF, the Government, the clubs, and the corporate houses. Even the media as well. Everyone is under an invisible pressure when we need to perform."

Sunil Chhetri

India will do better without Chhetri: Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri during the SAFF Championship, where he won the Golden Boot and MVP Award | Sportz Point

Sunil Chhetri during the SAFF Championship, where he won the Golden Boot and MVP Award. Image: AIFF

On his retirement and coach Igor Stimac's wish to have him for another five years, Sunil said that he does not for how long he will be able to continue and whenever he feels that he is not adding anything to the team, he will hang his boots for the blue tigers. Along with that, the Indian captain is assured that the team will go to new heights without him, and the team will be fine without Chhetri.

But, for India to have a more attacking style of play, which they will require in the coming tournaments, Sunil Chhetri urged every striker to play at their best position for their club. For instance, he wants players like Manvir Singh, Ishan Pandita, and Rahim Ali should ask their clubs to let them play at no. 9 so that they can build their game on that.

"It's unfortunate, and I only blame them. These three do not play number nine at the club. Ishan does whenever he does, and I hope he gets more game time. But Rahim plays on the left for nine, and man plays on the right. So, I did talk to talk to them, and I said, whenever possible, you got to stay as a number nine."

Sunil Chhetri

"And whenever they open their mouth that said, stop blaming anyone, it's on you. It's on you. Because they also like to pay number nine, so I hope sooner than later, these three, four names take the number nine portion, because let's be honest, our captain is getting old and soon he'll be out," Sunil added.

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"When when we meet Australia, we would meet competition that is a couple of levels higher, if not more:" Sunil Chhetri

Moreover, for the national team to do better at the international level, Sunil believes that longer camps will help the team to get their act going together.

"For a team like ours, especially for the Asian Cup, where we know we will face the likes of Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria, longer camps would always be helpful. When the boys play at the Hero ISL, they are playing at a certain level. But let's be honest, when we meet Australia, we would meet competition that is a couple of levels higher, if not more.

"That's the reason why when we come together and train, we know that it helps a bit. That is the reason why we need longer camps and to play 2-3 friendlies against some of the top teams in Asia," he went on to add.

Indian Football Sunil Chhetri