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Bhattacharya Lauds Chhetri’s Retirement Decision Anticipates Long Club Career

Sunil Chhetri started his illustrious football journey signing a three-year contract at the tender age of 17, and from then on, the trajectory of his career has been nothing but upward. Known as one of Indian football’s most illustrious players, Chhetri’s impending retirement from international football has sparked conversations. And who better to speak about him than his father-in-law, Subrata Bhattacharya, a former national team defender himself. Bhattacharya is confident that Chhetri will continue his football saga at the club level for many more years, even after hanging up his international boots.

Chhetri’s swansong in the Indian team jersey will be witnessed during the second-round FIFA World Cup qualifier match against Kuwait, slated to be held at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday. Bhattacharya fully supports Chhetri’s decision to retire from international football and believes the timing is impeccable. “It’s a perfect decision,” Bhattacharya shared with PTI. “He believes his time has come to step down from the international stage, and I couldn’t agree more with the timing.”

This phase is inevitable for every athlete. Bhattacharya emphasized the certainty of eventual retirement but added, “The good news is, he will continue at the club level. His fitness is unparalleled, and I foresee him playing club football for many years post-retirement. Even Chuni Goswami retired from international football in 1966 but continued playing till 1972.”

Chhetri debuted as a 21-year-old forward in an international match against Pakistan in Quetta on June 12, 2005. From there, he went on to become India’s highest goal-scorer, netting 94 goals in 150 appearances for the nation. However, the spark was first observed by Bhattacharya during a Mohun Bagan trial when a 17-year-old Chhetri performed a Shyam Thapa-like bicycle kick. This remarkable feat compelled Bhattacharya, then the coach, to advocate for Chhetri’s signing.

“He was small in stature and could be easily overlooked, but his acrobatic skills were hard to miss.

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. That bicycle kick goal was a defining moment,” Bhattacharya reminisced. This move was reminiscent of Shyam Thapa in his prime, solidifying Chhetri’s spot in Mohun Bagan despite his diminutive size.

Chhetri’s agility and ability to outmaneuver defenders with his exceptional aerial skills made him a force to reckon with, observed Bhattacharya. “But even then, I could not have predicted he’d become an Indian football legend and the nation’s top scorer. His hunger for success, unparalleled dedication, and work ethic are what set him apart, serving as an inspiration for many young footballers today.” Bhattacharya added that Chhetri’s God-given talent meant that football was rarely a topic at home.

Despite his glowing pride, Bhattacharya expressed a slight regret about not being able to witness Chhetri’s last international game in person. “I’m looking forward to seeing him play his last international match, but I’ll be watching it on TV. No one has given me tickets, so I won’t attend the match live,” he disclosed. Even when asked whether his son-in-law provided him any tickets, Bhattacharya chose not to elaborate, sticking to his plan to watch from home.

It is worth noting that the All India Football Federation has not issued any complimentary passes for this match, causing many like Bhattacharya to resort to watching from their television sets.

Finally, Bhattacharya reiterated his faith in Chhetri’s future in club football. His belief in Chhetri’s sustained fitness and talent provides a beacon of hope for Indian club football. As Chhetri embarks on this new chapter, all eyes will be on his continued journey, promising inspiration and excitement for fans and aspiring footballers alike.

As we bid farewell to Chhetri’s international career, the anticipation of his long-term club commitment is palpable. The end of one chapter heralds the beginning of another, and in Bhattacharya’s words, “He is second to none in fitness and will continue to dazzle on the club football stage for many years.”