After leading Indian football for the last decade, skipper Sunil Chhetri on Thursday said that his career 'is going to end soon'. The 37-year-old who surpassed legendary Pele's record of international goals this week, also asserted that he is "not going anywhere for the next few years."
For the past few years, Indian football has been more or less synonymous to Sunil Chhetri. The Secunderabad-based player made his debut for India's senior team in 2005 and has been the Blue Tigers' mainstay since.
Chhetri is currently leading India in the SAFF Championships, where the Blue Tigers entered the final where they will play Nepal.
Talking after scoring his 79th international goal, two more than Pele, in the match against Maldives on Wednesday, Chhetri said "it's a fact that it (his career) is going to end soon" and tells himself to enjoy every moment of it.
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"Now I have got a very simple mantra. Dost khade ho ja, bahut kam time bhacha hey, bahut kam game bache huwe hey, chup chaap ja aur apna best de. Thoda time pe khatam hone wala hey (I tell myself that there is very little time left, there are very few games left, go quietly and give your best. It is going to end in some time)."
Chhetri represents Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League. The team has won the tournament once - in 2018/19.
After hinting at a possible retirement, Sunil Chhetri said that he will not be going anywhere. This could mean that the Indian skipper might settle for a coaching gig.
"Stop crying, stop rejoicing stop over-celebrating, stop putting yourself down because all these will end very soon. Right now I will pick up myself, go there and try to give my best because I know it's a fact that it's going to end soon."
"SC11 is not going anywhere for next few years. So just relax," he said.
Chhetri is currently the third most prolific international goal-scorer among active players behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He made his international debut in 2005 against Pakistan in Quetta under head coach Sukhwinder Singh and went on to break all the possible records in Indian football.
He has played in a record 124 matches for India in his 16-year-long career. He has been Indian football's poster boy since the retirement of former captain Bhaiching Bhutia in 2011.
"Gali khata hun, ya log tarif karte hey...Everything I try to forget, I go there and try to do my best. Missing, I will miss goals, scoring I will score goals but all this we will talk once I am done.
"Because I don't want to regret that I could have done this and that. I want to do everything now." Asked about him overtaking the great Pele, Chhetri said, "Everybody who knows football knows that there is no comparison whatsoever (with Pele). I am happy to keep playing and scoring for my country. That is all I want," he said.
"Very few footages of the great man (Pele) but from whatever I can see, he was a dynamic and powerful footballer. Football was different in those times, the game was brutal at times then.
"Despite that he scored so many goals and that speaks of his extremely great achievement."