India football star Sunil Chhetri has disclosed how the pressure to perform in the early days of his career almost made him quit the game.
Chhetri, 35, is the captain of the Indian national football team as well as being the player with the highest number of caps and India’s record goalscorer.
He has scored 72 goals in 115 games he has played for the Blue Tigers after making his debut in 2005. He started his professional career with Mohun Bagan as a 17-year-old.
At that tender age, the striker claimed he buckled under pressure, and, if not for the support from his family and father, he would have walked away.
Right from the start of his career, things looked good, and expectations from fans was high as he got a sizeable number of minutes under his belts, but there was little patience.
“The first year was good. I used to get 20 minutes or 30 minutes game time in matches, and people used to tag me next Bhaichung Bhutia and what not. But football in Kolkata teaches you very quickly,” Chhetri stated in an interview with indiansuperleague.com.
Playing for the Kolkota giants seemingly had a big impact on the player’s young career back then, claiming that fans’ attitude at games affected his emotions.
He revealed that he sometimes cried when the team lost back then as the fans would become hostile, and he was on a couple of occasions question his resolve to carry on even as some players left the team due to the high demands of the fans.
However, his family and father played a huge role in the type of player he has become, with his father moving in with him to give him moral support.
Not surprising, though, as he came from a sporting family where his mother is a former Nepal Women’s national team footballer and his dad was in a battalion team.
Chhetri made his international debut against Pakistan in 2005 and sees himself has lucky6flr having players in the mould of Remedy Singh and Bhutia helping him and protecting him from undue pressure.
Written by: Daniel Ademiju Idowu