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I-League coaches vote the Mohun Bagan forward as the AIFF player of the year from a shortlist of five candidates.....

Sunil Chhetri has been declared the AIFF Player of the Year 2011. Sunil was chosen the winner by I-League coaches who voted on a list of 5 players shortlisted for the Award. The criteria for selection stayed performance on the field primarily for India’s International matches and general conduct, both on and off the field.

Chhetri has scored 13 goals in 17 International matches this calendar year, the highest by any Indian footballer in 2011. The Mohun Bagan forward was also named the Man of the Championship in the recently concluded SAFF Championship in New Delhi and also scored 11 goals in 20 Club appearances this year.

The fifty five times capped player, who is currently out injured, was ecstatic at having won the award for a second time in his career and stated, “It’s the highest recognition for an Indian footballer and I am honoured to receive the Award for the second time. At a time when I confined to my home with my plastered leg, this is perhaps, the best Christmas and New Year present. The Year started off well for me and ends in the best possible fashion. I’m elated -- at a loss of words. The Award explains that I’m improving with every given day.”

Chhetri also spoke about the fantastic year that he has had as a footballer. He summed it up as, “It all began with the Asian Cup where I scored two goals. I played for Chirag United in the I-League and then shifted base to Mohun Bagan where I have been among the goals. In between, I received the Arjuna Award and was part of the triumphant squad in the SAFF Championship. I also carry the memories of quite a few International Friendlies where I played a part for my team.”

“Looking back, it has been an excellent year for me. A footballer always needs to constantly keep himself motivated and look eager for the next challenge. In the entire year, the moment I finished a match, I longed for the next challenge to kick-off. That explains the year for me,” he added.

The twenty seven year old striker also thanked his teammates for their co-operation and felt he couldn’t have won it without the help of his colleagues. He said, “Football is a team game and none can survive or excel without the help of the other. I need to thank all my coaches, my teammates, the support staff for their co-operation and the fans. I can’t just walk away with all the credit. I have learnt a lot from them and it’s because of them, I feel, I’m on the verge of hitting my peak form.”

The former JCT striker also gave an update on his current injury status. He revealed, “It’s a Grade-2 ligament tear on the left ankle and my plaster would be coming off on January 5. After that, it will be tentatively two weeks of rehab before I get back to action. Sitting idle at home is the most painful experience for a footballer. When you receive such an Award, you intend to hit the field immediately. But I’m helpless. That pains.”

The Player-of-the-Year will receive a cash award of Rs. 2 lakh plus a silver plaque.

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