Sunil Chhetri needs no introduction to anybody familiar with Indian and South Asian football. He is the biggest star in the region and the striker was instrumental in India’s recent AFC Challenge Cup triumph.
The 24 year-old recently moved clubs, leaving JCT to join Kolkata giants East Bengal. He enjoyed a goalscoring debut for his new team and if his present record is anything to by, then it will be the first of many.
Always a gentleman and always ready with a smile and a signature for his fans, Sunil has agreed to provide fans in India and around the world with a weekly insight into Indian football, the I-League and the man himself.
"I am a player who works hard and really wants to improve. Whether it is in training or in a game, I like to learn things every day. I just keep working hard and look to improve.
I am inspired by David Villa. He is not big but he is such an effective striker and he makes darting runs into the area that cause such problems for defences. He may not be physically big but he is a powerful striker and I love to watch him.
Of course, I would love to play in Europe like Villa and it all depends where I get an offer from. England would certainly be fine and I have had talks but the stumbling blocks are the work permit restrictions. I have played 75% of India’s games but of course India’s ranking is outside the top 70 in the world.
The problem in India is that when you reach a certain level at an Indian club then it is easy to become stagnated. It is difficult to progress, learn and achieve new things. That is why I want to go to Europe, I want to go to a club where I can learn a lot and achieve more.
There was no problem with JCT. It was a good team and one of best organised clubs in India with good training facilities etc. I had been there for three years and it was just time for a change and that was the only reason. We had some good results and were a good team with good players. We finished second and third and were very proud of what we did.
Coming to East Bengal is very different. There is a huge fan base here and the club has so much potential. We have good players and now we have a good new coach and I am very optimistic about the season ahead.
Scoring in the first game of the season was a great way to start but we know that we have to work hard if we are going to challenge for the title. There are some good teams in India and the standard is improving but there is a long way to go.
We need to become more professional with clubs owning their own stadiums and provide better facilities in training. We need things that European clubs take for granted like swimming pools, gyms and the right diets.
But for the moment, we are focused on bouncing back from our defeat against Mumbai and get back to the top part of the table.
I hope that you will join me over the course of the season."
Sunil was talking to John Duerden