BADGEB Exclusive: “Taking pride in the achievements of one’s own ward is something which has been our parallel journey.” – Mr. Kharga Chhetri
Our correspondent from Badgeb.com Chayan Mondal caught up with Indian football’s most recognisable figure – The Indian National team captain Sunil Chhetri’s father, Mr. Kharga Chhetri in a friendly chat and in he was happy to provide us with his views and perspectives regarding Indian football and Sunil’s career.
The interview as followed:
Q. How does it now feel, to be called as the father of India’s best player? Is it satisfying?
Obviously, it’s a great feeling. Taking pride in the achievements of one’s own ward is something which has been our parallel journey.
Q. As per you, how much has the current Indian Football team helped in developing the game in India? Are the impacts visible?
The phases of football in India can be categorized into each decade like 50s, 60s, and 70s. In the early 80s till 90s and towards Millennium our football seems to have suffered a setback. I think reasons are many. May be, one of the reasons could be that Football Body of our country could not match BCCI’s strategical, strong and the best marketing in the promotion of Cricket in the country. 1983 World Cup Win, advent of audio visual media (TV) captured the Indian audiences to the level of madness.
Still Football in India linger on, did not fade away. Thanks to Our Century Old Football Clubs Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Mohd. Sporting, Hyderabad Football, Kerala and Karnataka Football, GOA football, Punjab and Delhi and most importantly our North Eastern states including Sikkim North Bengal always thrived with Football. Perhaps, AIFF’s NFL and later I League in 90s, have added some charm to this beautiful global sport. I think once Indian football got the much needed fuel to take off, the start of new millennium definitely gave a booster dose. Thereafter also, it took, 17/18 years to improve on our ranking.
How was it like when Sunil received his first professional contract from Bagan at the age of 17?
In fact there was mixed feeling when Sunil was called for trial at Mohun Bagan. I was keen on getting Sunil in a good college in Delhi and also the call for a trial, was not at all a career option for Sunil then. Even after signing three years contract, I was reiterating the fact Sunil attends college to pursue further studies. Yes, I must say, Sunil was happy after signing, as he got an opportunity to play for the club of his dream.
Q. Kolkata has been a little rough on Sunil, his time here is still considered mediocre by a section of the fans. Do you feel, if he would have continued playing in Kolkata, he would have reached the levels he is currently at today? Did you support his decision to leave Kolkata ?
I don’t think so. In the very first year in his stint with MB, there were likes of Baichung and Barreto in the team, and Sunil, a 17 year old boy, was smoothly carving his niche, playing under the guidance of these established and renowned players. Second year in MB was also his learning phase and playing along side the likes of Basudev Mondal, he honed his scoring skill well. 2003-04 season he scored 5 goals and though, people may say, not a high scoring ability but I think an 18 years old boy picking up that ability was definitely something to be proud of. Yes, in the third year, during MB’s tour of Myanmar, Sunil fell ill very seriously and later due to some niggling injuries, he was much disturbed and disgusted to the extent that he almost felt like quitting football.
It proved to be his matured and the best decision not to continue with Mohun Bagan after three years, and moved to JCT Phagwara under Coach Sukhvinder Singh. During this time, he improved his mental ability and physical agility to a great extent. We can see this change in Sunil distinctly as he started U23 India and in continuity he debuted senior team India, at the age of 20-21.
Q. You must have seen Sunil taking mental preparations ahead of the games, what are his do’s and don’ts?
When Sunil was in his first 6 – 8 years of club football days, such discussions, match analysis, used to be our favourite pastime but these days we don’t indulge in such discussions, at all. Every win or loss, makes a player retrospect and we all know, there is always a better way, and enough scope for doing better and better each time they are in the pitch.
Q. Has it ever happened that Sunil got demoralised after a loss or bad performance and you helped him get motivated for a game or a tournament? If so, can you please share…
Sunil has played under number of multinational coaches at various levels. Be it Kansas City, Lisbon, I League clubs, ISL clubs and India National team, he has been super rich in his experience in handling match preparation, strategizing pre match and post match conditions. I don’t think I can comment anything on this question.
Q. I-League and the ISL debates are a common norm, as per you, how much is the difference in reality?
The debate of supremacy of League and ISL was there in the first and second season of ISL. But considering the fact how ISL pulled the level and crowd to the glittering stadia, there is no comparison now. Yes, due to some avoidable and inherent regulation prevsiling in ISL, AFC and FIFA must have put across their observations. The status of I League and ISL may have come under some scrutiny also, but there is no doubt, ISL’s role in development of football in India is definitely greater. (My Opinion)
Q. Do you have any message for the young generation who are dreaming to become a successful footballer like Sunil?
I am pretty sure, I am not at all, qualified to pass on messages to budding/promising football players, as far as their technicality is concerned. However, in my opinion, footballer who wants to pursue a professional career in future, should inculcate a disciplined mind and body besides skills and agility. As everyone knows it, the game of football demands tremendous amount of hard work, food and nutritional knowledge, a proper gym for physical toning and highest standard of discipline in all spheres of his or her day to day activities. 90 minutes in the field playing a match, requires days and months of practice with Sweat and Blood. In order to attain a quickest decision making mind and robustly agile body, I guess no amount of romanticism or the idea that tells you players like Messi, Ronaldo and many like them, are sculpted and shaped by the Almighty, is enough. To summarise, the person himself/herself needs to play the role of GOD, to sculpt and shape the individual.
Q. and… Do you have any message for the Indian football fans?
yes, we as football fans have an important role to play in development of ndian football. Without our support, and proper encouragement, even the most promising players find it difficult to bring about 100% of his or her potential. Very young and budding players need our support/encouragement more.
We from badgeb.com thank Mr. Kharga Chhetri for having this wonderful conversation with us. We wish him and Sunil Chhetri all the best for their future.