An optimistic Sunil Chhetri is looking forward to the challenges in the new season. Donning India’s newly-designed team kit, prepared by Nike, the National team captain hoped the country would fare well in its next important assignment — the SAFF Cup.

“I enjoy the enthusiasm when I play for India. I still get goosebumps when the National anthem is played. The senior players try to gel with the younger ones in the team and it is a happy atmosphere,” said Chhetri, at the unveiling of the team kit here on Thursday.

The diminutive forward said his team should start afresh in the new season, beginning with a friendly away to Tajikistan on August 14 and the SAFF Cup in September. “Whether it is a friendly or a tournament, we have to take every match seriously. Our away form has not been good. We have to improve it. If we do not win the SAFF title, people may say ‘SAFF Cup bhi nahi jeet sakte’ (they cannot even win the SAFF Cup).

“Our under-16 team has won the SAFF Cup and it is a motivation for us. We are the favourite. There is no reason why we cannot win it.”

The 28-year-old said the draw did not matter too much, but the opening match (against Pakistan) would be important. Chhetri, who was part of Churchill Brothers’ I-League winning team, said, “It was difficult to sign for JSW (the owner of Bengaluru FC). There will be pressure. But I have to keep improving.”

About IMG-Reliance’s initiative to start an Indian Premier League-style football league and the I-League clubs’ disapproval of it, Chhetri said there was a lot of apprehension about the league, and that all stakeholders in Indian football should work together to promote the sport.

Churchill midfielder Lenny Rodrigues said the I-League champion had resumed its training.

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