Need to sit down with stakeholders to improve Indian football: Stimac

"Chhetri's influence is a key point for this team. It is not only the goals he scores in the game, but also his leadership on the pitch. He is a role model," says Stimac

Published: 20th October 2021 12:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th October 2021 12:36 AM   |  A+A-

Sunil Chhetri (Photo | Twitter/@IndianFootball)

Sunil Chhetri (Photo | Twitter/@IndianFootball)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: It has been more than a decade since Sunil Chhetri has been scoring goals left and right for India, lifting the team on many occasions in the process. Come 2021, the scenario has not changed for the Blues Tigers with the forward ending the recently concluded SAFF Championship as the highest goal-scorer with five goals. He has shouldered responsibility up front over the years as his 80 international goals suggest.

But, Chhetri brings much more to the table than this impressive goal count. At 37, he might not have many more years left in him, but his fitness stands out. Amongst the current bunch of players, he is still one of the fittest. Also, he is looked upon as a leader in the team. It has been a common sight with Chhetri not allowing his players to drop their heads even when they are outplayed. When things are not going well, he gives it his all, which motivates others in the team to display a big heart irrespective of the situation. It is such characteristics, which has helped him garner huge respect.

"Chhetri's influence is a key point for this team. It is not only the goals he scores in the game, but also his leadership on the pitch. He is a role model. He is the most passionate one in the dressing room at his age, which is unbelievable. His fitness condition is unbelievable. While he is doing what he is doing, Sunil is going to be there with us. When someone steps forward, maybe with a better fitness condition and also better scoring ability then only he can be replaced," said Stimac said in a virtual interaction on Tuesday.

It might not have been a dominant Indian show, at least initially, in the SAFF Championship, but there were plenty of positives. Some of the youngsters like Liston Colaco, Suresh Singh Wangjam and others showed their progression while Manvir Singh impressed while partnering Chhetri up front. However, all these players will be working with their respective Indian Super League clubs ahead of the new season, which starts next month.

The next few months are going to be critical as players would want to improve in all departments with their ISL clubs before the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers in February. With some top national teams in the fray, it is going to be tough for India, and Stimac feels that the ISL clubs need to release players on time for the qualifiers. 

 "We need to sit down with other stakeholders in domestic competitions and discuss how much time the national team players will get for preparation for these important games. If we make sure that we get enough time to prepare then we might get good football and good results. Otherwise, we are going to gamble, as simple as that......we have to make sure that all the players are released from the clubs from these qualifiers," said Stimac.

 On biennial WC

The gaffer believes it could benefit India in the near future but wants to learn about the real motive of having two World Cups. He asked ‘is it money?’ "If the reason is primarily money for the organisation (FIFA) from the sponsors and all this, I don't see any benefits. Of course, I will support as the national team coach of India, as it might benefit India in the nearer future than expected," Stimac said.


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