BY RAHUL BALI Follow @rahulatma on twitter
Having secured a release from Sporting Clube de Portugal’s ‘B’ team last week, Sunil Chhetri choose to join Bengaluru FC, an entity which was granted a direct entry into the top flight after subscribing to the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) request for proposal scheme. The decision was indeed a surprising one.
And Chhetri admits that he had his reservations about pledging his allegiance to a new outfit but was quick to add that those doubts were soon dispelled after giving an ear to their plans.
“At a thought of signing for a new club, I was a little sceptical. But then I met people like Kunal Agarwal, Mustafa Ghouse and Mandar Tamhane, whom I knew previously. I heard their plans and the way they want to do it. It was something new in India what I heard and I trusted them. I am really looking forward to be a part of them. It’s not a relatively huge team but it’s a club which wants to prosper and wants to do things in a right way. That was the only reason I joined them,” he told Goal.
“I achieved great heights with Churchill Brothers in a few months by becoming the champion. I thought it’s a good opportunity to take a new challenge in front of me,” he added.
Sunil Chhetri is the most recognisable face of Indian football, second only to the legendary Bhaichung Bhutia. The marquee signing of Chhetri shall go a long way in establishing a set fan base for the new club which was evident at the launch over the weekend. The assembled fans kept chanting his name until his made his way out on the field which saw the decibels go through the roof.
“I have always tried to do that (help build a fan base) for whichever club I have signed for. If my image can help that, that’s a bonus. I will love to do that. But right now, the only thing in my and JSW’s mind is the game side of it because they are a new team. I should say ‘we’ now.
"The onus is on us. Everybody has a great team right now. If we have to think then East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, Dempo SC, Pune FC and Salgaocar FC are very good sides. It is really going to be tough for us. From day one, the training has to be top class. I am more worried about that rather than the off field promotion.”
Bengaluru FC are exempt from relegation for the next three seasons and when asked on what the club wants to achieve in its debut year, the India skipper stated that he would answer the question after a month’s training with his team-mates which allow him to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the side.
“To be honest, no targets. (No relegation) is not playing on my mind. When you sign for a club, you never think of relegation for sure. I cannot say anything right now. I haven’t known all the players. I have to meet them, I have to meet the coach and in about a month’s time, then we’ll know how much can we achieve.
“One thing is for sure that if I have signed for them, I want to give my 200%. It’s not that I have just signed for the sake of it. I really want to improve from what I was last year and let’s see.”
The 28-year old also thanked Churchill Alemao, president of Churchill Brothers, and explained that it was one of the toughest decisions of his career to not sign for the I-League champions.
“What I heard from JSW is that they wanted to work in a very professional manner. Everything was very perfect and it’s just that I wanted a new challenge. I have nothing against Churchill Brothers and it was a difficult decision to leave them. When I called the boss, Mr.Churchill Alemao, I promised him that I will inform him before signing anywhere else. It was a very emotional call when I spoke to him. I have never been emotional when it comes to signing but it was very difficult to leave Churchill. But yes, I have left for a bigger challenge and also to a better team, not in comparison but to a team that promises many things. I am very proud to be a part of JSW.”
How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.