Sunil Chhetri downplays SAFF Championship


SAFF Championship: Sunil Chhetri downplays SAFF Championship- Senior team captain Sunil Chhetri on Friday said that India should send its U-23 team for the SAFF Championships as the country has won the regional tournament for a record eighth time. Follow InsideSport.IN For more updates

Chhetri said such a move will also give the younger players international experience, though the South Asian Football Federation may not take his comments kindly.

SAFF Championship: Sunil Chhetri downplays SAFF Championship ahead of Asian Cup qualifiers, says ‘India should send U-23 team for SAFF’

Also read: AIFF under CoA: Sunil Chhetri finally BREAKS SILENCE on potential FIFA ban, says ‘it will be CATASTROPHIC as I am playing my last games’

India won the SAFF title in 2009 with its U-23 side. But a team mostly made up of U-23 players lost to Maldives in the final in the 2018 edition.

A Chhetri-led India had extended its domination in the regional tournament, winning their eighth title with a 3-0 win over Nepal in October last year.

“The boys who have not played enough or the U-23 boys should go and get an experience. In the worst case scenario, we are going to lose,” Chhetri said during a media interaction here.

“But we already have eight trophies so we can afford that. Not that it’s not important, but because we have done fairly well in the last 15 years, we can afford to take that risk,” said Chhetri, who is not known to speak often on such matters in the past.

“This time we had to send a senior team, probably because we didn’t have a lot of matches. We should send the U-23 team.”

SAFF Championship: Sunil Chhetri downplays SAFF Championship ahead of Asian Cup qualifiers, says ‘India should send U-23 team for SAFF’

Chhetri said sending U-23 players in the SAFF Championships would give head coach Igor Stimac a wide pool to choose form.

“Against Jordan, UAE, the coach tried everyone, where else is he going to try. Before we had a coach who was not trying, then people would say why is he not trying.

“Then you have a coach who doesn’t care and plays anyone and wants to try, then people say ‘why try so much?’

“Yes, ideally I love it when the team is sorted and you have a camaraderie and telepathic connection with a group of 13-14. When it’s done it’s great, so the SAFF Championships should be used for that. Worst we will lose,” he added.

Autobiography on anvil

He may not have decided about his retirement, but Chhetri said he has already thought of writing an autobiography once he hangs his boots.

The 37-year-old with 125 international appearances will lead India in the upcoming final round of Asian Cup Qualifiers beginning with their match against Cambodia at the Salt Lake Stadium on June 8.

“I might write a book. I’m collecting small anecdotes, I’m writing small, small things that I like. And once I’m done and I’ve time, I’ll write it with my manager at BFC,” Chhetri said.

SAFF Championship: Sunil Chhetri downplays SAFF Championship ahead of Asian Cup qualifiers, says ‘India should send U-23 team for SAFF’

“Now I don’t have that much time. I really want to devote time to iit. I want to go back to the places, come back to Fort William,” he said.

Asked whether he wants to be a football administrator later on, Chhetri said: “I don’t have the inclination. My expertise is not in it.

“I want to build a nice house somewhere in the jungles and want to relax (after retirement). I’m not joking. I will take a lot of books, pets. I will go away from phones, from city life. I mean this genuinely,” he said.

What is ‘home advantage’ if only 12,000 people are allowed in stadium?

Chhetri urged the state government authorities to allow more people than the mere 12,000 tickets allowed for the Asian Cup qualifiers final round matches starting on June 8 at the Salk Lake Stadium.

While the All India Football Federation has made all the tickets “complimentary”, the state government has “allowed just 12,000 tickets” in the 70,000-capacity Salt Lake Stadium to avoid any law and order problem.

“They (opposition teams) should feel it. If in a stadium of almost 90,000 people if only 10-15,000 what’s the point of having a home advantage?” Chhetri asked.

“I hope they (state government) will allow it, otherwise it will be a chaos and they will barge in.”

After kicking off their campaign against Cambodia on June 8, India take on Afghanistan (June 11) and Hong Kong (June 14) in their other round-robin matches.

SAFF Championship: Sunil Chhetri downplays SAFF Championship ahead of Asian Cup qualifiers, says ‘India should send U-23 team for SAFF’

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