Sunil Chhetri, 150-cap legend, India's lone warrior ?

Sunil Chettri is on the score sheet but India loses the match. A story that is as old as time itself. A fixture which the much higher ranked Indian team was expected to dominate after the resilient Afghans managed to eke out a heroic draw at Damac just a few days back. Despite getting ahead with a well, a Sunil Chettri penalty managed to bottle the match in the dying moments which India was never frankly in control of despite leading for the majority of the match's duration.

Sunil Chhetri, 150-cap legend
Credit - Khel Now

Till the time the Blue Tiger's  Captain, Leader, Legend was on the pitch for his 150th appearance. There was hope that India might just be able to at least salvage a draw and he more than anyone else would have traded all of his 90+ goals to be just that much closer to have a shot at his potential and India's first and his first and final world cup ever but that was not to be the case today at this record breaking occasion. 

A man with 4 SAFF Championship medals, 2 runner up medals an AFC challenge Cup winners and a South Asian Games runner up, all these accolades to his name, countless occasions  when he has single handedly bailed out both The Blue Tiger's as well as Bengaluru FC in recent times at club level.

Even a man of his talent needs his team mates to at least stand with him and put a fight. He at least gets some base foundation to work his magic on but the rest of the squad wasn't able to even muster up that today and this has been in a way a reflection of how his whole career has panned out. Firefighting a sinking ship, managing to plug a few holes (some victories and regional conquest like SAFF) every now and then but ultimately  the whole crew struggles  to stay afloat despite the herculean efforts of their captain fantastic. 

Sunil Chhetri (Credits- FIFA)

Almost 22 years of Service to Indian Football, countless coaches,  players and clubs have come and gone but Sunil Chettri has been a constant bedrock right from his breakout days at Mohun Bagan to repping India abroad in MLS. Cristiano Ronaldo's first club Sporting Lisbon being one of the highest active international goal scorers  and even after all that he has to pray with folded hands and appeal on behalf of his  teammates and hope that his personal brand power is enough to convince Indian fans to back the Blues.. 

 Credits- FIFA

And the Blues were definitely backed in the last 2 matches whether it be a small but noisy contingent in the middle east or the jam packed crowd in the football crazy Assam but the results were not up to the mark. Though Vikram Pratap Singh had shown glimpses of hunger and fight to be the attacking beckon to spearhead India especially once Sunil Chettri decides to hang up his boots sooner rather than later, India would be hoping he manages to carry on for at least a couple more years. 

It would be very difficult to transition to a world without Chhetri especially when one man has been both your chance creator as well as primary goal scorer for quite some time. More than that, his presence and leadership would be almost impossible to replicate in the short term even if youngsters like Vikram Pratap, Colaco, Pandita  etc manage to fill in the void of goals inevitably left by Captain Sunil. 

 Sunil Chettri (Credits- FIFA)

The match was won by Afghanistan thanks to two late second half strikes after falling behind via a Chettri penalty in the 38th minute but an insistence to play the passing way even when that way ends up in more misplaced passes resulted in two errors which lead to India's loss . Even though India would be in the running even if Kuwait wins this tonight, the Blue Tiger's would be praying for a massive Kuwait loss, hoping to win their last 2 matches and finally again hoping that results go their way. 

That's a lot of hoping, and thanks a lot to Sunil Chettri for bearing those same hopes during what has been one of the most challenging eras of Indian Football.

Cover Credits - Khel Now

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