'At 28, I felt sitting out was not justified' - Sunil Chhetri on Portugal stint

The former Sporting Kansas man spoke of his frustration during his time at Portugal with Sporting Lisbon's B team and his team's chances in the AFC Cup...
He joined an elite group of Indian players who had the opportunity to showcase their wares in leagues out of India. However much as it was a learning experience, Sunil Chhetri had to endure a fair amount of frustration in the sidelines during his sojourn with Sporting Lisbon's B team. The 28-year old played only 5 matches in a seven month period. Despite this he was selected to lead the Indian national team and ended up with disappointing results.

"I was there for seven months but played just five matches. Besides, I was substituted for the last five minutes in some matches. This hurt me," said Chhetri to DNA during a Churchill Brothers training session in Pune.

"I wish I was a 16-year-old. In that case, I wouldn’t have moved out so early. But at 28, I felt that sitting out was not justifying my age," he added.

Chhetri was of the opinion that if India's young players went abroad and played with bigger clubs the nation would benefit immensely and become one of the top teams in the world.

"At 15 or 16, money is not the top priority. It is then that one can shape up well to become a top player," opined the former Dempo man.

Chhetri's next assignment will be to lead The Red Machine against Indonesian side Semen Padang in an AFC Cup clash on March 12 at Pune. He was just another who had questioned the tight nature of scheduling of tournaments like the AFC Cup, AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers and I-League.

"It is the player who is hampered in the end,” he said. "We (Churchill) are in contention for the I-League this year and it is here that the mindset of the players differ. I am not saying that we will not give our best, but the mindset is not in the right place."

Such scheduling saw a frantic period for national team players from Churchill Brothers and East Bengal who had to turn out for their respective clubs and rush to Myanmar to play in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.

However, Chhetri admitted that his team did not give their best during their opening group game against Kitchee SC when they lost 3-0.

"Failing to capitalise on chances made the difference. But we are now playing at home and I am sure we will be a better side against Semen Padang," he signed off.

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