Hours before the Indian Super League 2022-23 final against ATK Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri feels it is the biggest rivalry in Indian club football in the last 10 years.
An exhilarating ISL season will crown its champion as ATK Mohun Bagan take on Bengaluru FC for the silverware at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday.
The player shared his views ahead of the ISL final, the rivalry Bengaluru FC shares with ATK Mohun Bagan, the story of the turnaround for the Blues in this season, dealing with pressure and a lot more.
“I think I’m right by saying it’s the biggest rivalry in the last 10 years in Indian club football without a shadow of a doubt and without demeaning any other club. Our matches with them (ATK Mohun Bagan) have been one of the fiercest battles. I mean, neutrals will tell you this is the best game to watch in the last 10 years. Apart from that, keeping everything aside, we are just thinking about the final and trying to stay as normal as possible,” Sunil Chhetri said it on the Backstage with Boria show.
Soon after winning the Durand Cup, the slide started for Bengaluru FC. Chhetri made the startling revelation that the slide may have been because he was a tad complacent.
“Everything was going right for me. And may be when I look back I did become a tad complacent. And that cost me and us. Sport is a great leveller and it was yet another example when sport teaches you life lessons. I was able to understand this before it was too late and hence could start the turnaround”, confessed Chhetri.
Talking about Bengaluru FC’s incredible turnaround story, he said, “I would be lying if I said that we completely believed in it (turnaround). What we did believe was if we stuck together and we did give whatever we had in every game, something could still happen. We needed to win six games and a draw to make it. So that is how tough it was. That is why against Northeast or after that against Jamshedpur FC or Odisha FC, we did not think or believe completely that we are going to qualify. But we did know that taking one game at a time and staying alive could give us one more opportunity in the next game. So, we were hanging by the thread and we were taking one game at a time at that period.”
“I was benched and did not start in a few games. And that really hit me. I started looking within myself. And that’s where people like my wife, and my close friends really helped. I realized that small margins that I am very good at taking care of is what I was missing. So, then I started fixing those things. And when I did so it helped the whole dressing room. But yes, you are right, there was a sense of complacency. I cannot tell you exactly how I know it. But I know it was there. Small margins. And the only silver lining is I caught it up quite early. I fixed it. Now I feel good”, Chhetri added.
Speaking on his career, Chhetri said, “I know it won’t last forever. Whatever number of games I play now I want to enjoy them. That’s what I want to do at the end of 22 years” (ANI)