Eugeneson Lyngdoh: Despite being a legend Sunil Chhetri is still a kid at heart
Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who has played with Sunil Chhetri for Bengaluru FC and the Indian national team, explains why Chhetri continues to dominate Indian football.
I don’t exactly remember the date. We were camping in Bengaluru and the next evening we were to play our home-match against Macau, where a victory was supposed to earn India a ticket to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
We finished practice early and rushed back to our rooms to be all glued to our TV sets – India were playing Colombia in the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.
Even as we watched it together, I felt that Sunil was actually himself playing the match. It was that phase in the match where India looked more organised, were playing well and he was kind of waving, gesturing as if he was in the dugout.
At times he looked at me, smiled, commented, and then dived deep into the match again. And when we equalised, he jumped out of the bed, shouted, ran out of the room. He was so excited that I saw him banging the opposite room where other support staff were staying. Even before they could open the door, Sunil was back to his bed – our door left slightly opened.
It was at that moment that I figured that despite him being the legend that he is -- Sunil Chhetri is still a kid, and will always remain the kid. God bless him for that!
Sunil’s biggest quality as a room-mate is that he will make yourself feel very comfortable. There is a sense of warmth in him, and that makes it easier for anyone to bond.
But contrary to popular notion, football has hardly ever been the topic of discussion when we have been in our rooms. Our talk revolves around all other facets of the world – environment, education, politics, our personal lives, the road which we have already walked, and the road ahead, and other stuff.
He will just flip through and randomly start with his opinions on a recent event, and life in general. He prefers to look at the world from a different perspective without taking any sides or any allegiances.
Of course, with a crucial match coming up there will be talks pertaining to the match at times. But in our rooms, we have our own lives – relaxed, friendly and chilled. Both of us have had similar backgrounds and similar fates, as education has not been our strongest point, and neither were we bookworms during our student days.
We always love to talk about that. Both of us sacrificed our Academics for the love of football – both of us are not graduates. But Sunil always stresses on the importance of proper education for all footballers, or rather all sportspersons.
At times, he laments on the lack of facilities during our youth days. The younger batches, he feels, are just so lucky. He always stresses that the new lot should make the most of the opportunities. We love to talk about our perseverance, determination which made the way for both of us to reach the top and play for our country.
Sunil has always cherishes the moment of him not being picked up by Tata Football Academy scouts after trials in Delhi. He feels that was the moment which made him more determined as other players were picked up but he wasn’t. He never laments about it, but cherishes it.
Despite being the footballer that he is today, he never forgets the smaller things in life and from where it all started. He loves to ponder over it and I foresee it bringing his tunnel-vision back -- especially if it’s prior to a crucial match.
But I need to say he is very orthodox as far as using his mobile phone is concerned. He is never obsessed with his mobile, and neither the TV remote unless there’s a big match being live telecast on TV. He loves to sleep, anywhere, anytime – especially on match days.
Packing his bags, however, isn’t his biggest strength. He usually does it just prior to the departure and there is no superstition in his dictionary. He prefers putting in his boots and other match kits prior to going down for the pre-match meal and then boarding the bus directly.
But yes, there have been times when we have been frustrated and a bit depressed. And that happens after a bad day on the ground. That’s the time when he murmurs to himself, vents out his frustration, sometimes goes a bit livid. Even at this age he goes bonkers if we don’t give our best on the field.
Those are the nights when the others start dropping into our room. And when he is furious, no-one utters a word. On such nights, only he speaks, and speaks, and speaks. Then he asks all to look deep into your own selves and asks direct questions. The next moment he keeps on reminding everyone about their capabilities -- making us wonder and ponder about what has happened, and what we ought to do in our next match.
(Special arrangement from AIFF)