Sheer hard work, passion and professionalism set Chhetri apart from other players: Bhaichung Bhutia

08:34 PM May 16, 2024 | PTI |

New Delhi: Retiring India football captain Sunil Chhetri’s sheer hard work, passion and professionalism made him different from other players of his generation as he went on to become an iconic player, feels his former skipper Bhaichung Bhutia.


The 39-year-old Chhetri on Thursday announced his decision to retire after the FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait on June 6 in Kolkata, bringing the curtains down on a glorious career that is unparalleled in Indian football for its longevity and consistency.

“The sheer hard work, passion, dedication and true professionalism, his focus and desire to get better everyday is something which makes him different. As a young boy, he was always willing to learn and do everything possible (to excel),” Bhutia told PTI on Thursday, paying glowing tribute to Chhetri.

“Sunil has done a huge service for Indian football and his contribution is immense. It is a big loss for Indian football. He will go down as one of the greatest players India has ever produced.”

Bhutia was already Indian football’s poster-boy and captain by the time Chhetri made his debut in 2005. They formed a great strike partner in the six years they played together in the Indian team, mostly under Englishman Bob Houghton.


Chhetri later took over the mantle from Bhutia, who retired in 2011. In fact, Chhetri surpassed almost all the records set by Bhutia.

“We had a great understanding as a strike partner and we enjoyed it. I am honoured to have played along with him,” said the 47-year-old legendary player.

“When I came in, (IM) Vijayan was senior to me and when I was about to retire, Sunil came in. I have been fortunate to have been in between two of them.”

Chhetri had in the past admitted Bhutia’s influence in his career, especially during his younger days.

Bhutia said Chhetri was different from others and he knew it from the time the youngster first joined the iconic club Mohun Bagan in 2002.

“From the day one he came to Kolkata as a professional, I was there in Mohun Bagan. As we are from the hills, we have always developed a relationship on and off the field,” said the ‘Sikkimese Sniper’.

“He (Sunil) did not lose track and focus. There were a lot of players who were with him and who came to Mohun Bagan at that time but many of them lost way. But Sunil was different.”


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