Male [Maldives], September 30 (ANI): Indian football team skipper Sunil Chhetri lavished praise on former teammate Bhaichung Bhutia as he gears for the upcoming SAFF Championship.
It's been 13 years since Chhetri first appeared for India in a SAFF Championship match. Since then, he has been part of the Blue Tigers in four editions, with the forthcoming Championship (set to kick-off from October 1) being his fifth one.
Bhaichung and Chhetri had played for India in the Championship and when asked who has been the most lethal Indian player, Chhetri replied "That's a really difficult one to answer as there have been many. But I will go for Bhaichung-da, and I don't need to explain it. His name itself is self-explanatory."
India had won the 2015-2016 edition of the tournament and Chhetri too had enjoyed the showpiece event to the fullest.
"I will pick the one (favourite SAFF Championship) which we won in Kerala in the 2015-16 edition. The rivalry that we had with Afghanistan in the final, and the build-up to it was simply majestic," AIFF quoted Chhetri as saying.
"It is also because we had a lot of youngsters in the squad, and won it with just 19 players after Robin Singh got injured in the first match itself. Over 40,000 people turned up to cheer for us in the final. That will always stay with me," he added.
Further talking about the tournament, Chhetri said, "Jeje's (Lalpekhlua) goal in the final against Afghanistan in 2015-16 in Thiruvananthapuram will always be my favourite. It was an extremely tough match, and we were 0-1 down despite having some good chances."
"The goal was extremely significant, and the manner the superstar flicked it in was sublime. Most importantly, it came at the right moment. If we hadn't scored then, maybe we would have panicked and the result could have been different. We eventually went on to win 2-1," he added.
Speaking about the bond he shares with the former teammates, Chhetri said, "As I have played with so many players, it has kept changing. But I am quite fortunate with whom I have enjoyed my relationship on and off the field."
"If I stick purely on the pitch, I will pick up Bhaichung-da (Bhutia) and Jeje (Lalpekhlua), and it has more to do with my combination and understanding with them," he signed off. (ANI)