The legendary IM Vijayan feels veteran striker Sunil Chhetri still has a lot to offer to Indian football and finds the occasional chatter about his retirement laughable.
India opened their Group D campaign in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers with a 2-0 win over Cambodia in which Chhetri scored a brace. Chhetri also scored the first goal against Afghanistan — with a stunning free-kick — in the teams second match.
Vijayan believes the national team skipper still has a lot to contribute despite being 37 years old.
“Sunil is a marvel. He is a personality and a player that all players should emulate. His goal in the match against Afghanistan was of excellent quality. All youngsters need to see and learn how easily he handles open chances. I laugh when the media asks about his retirement.
“With such a level of fitness playing with such sincerity, he still has a lot to gain. As the Indian team coach said, he still has a lot of goals left to score. One of them could be from the World Cup,” said Vijayan.
Chhetri has 83 international goals to his name, only three behind Lionel Messi, and is placed third in the list of active goal scorers on the world stage. Vijayan, who played for India between 1992 and 2003, scored 29 goals.
He also lauded the efforts of Sahal Abdul Samad who scored the winning goal against Afghanistan, saying it will inspire the youngsters.
Sahal came off the bench to score during injury time in Indias 2-1 win over the Afghans in a third-round qualifier.
“Sahal is a source of pride for the younger generation of Indians and Malayalees. Sahal scored within seconds of entering the field at the most crucial moment. This is an example of a very good reflex action which is the most necessary thing in football. He is sure to rise in a way that will make Indian football proud,” Vijayan, who hails from Kerala, said.
Sahals goal on Saturday was cheered on by more than 44,000 fans at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Vijayan was also impressed by defender Sandesh Jhingans contribution in marshalling the backline. “The team has done very well in the last two matches. Especially in defense. The performance of Sandesh is commendable. He is performing well after regaining his fitness level. His presence is an asset to the Indian team,” Vijayan concluded.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)