Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri has joined Sporting Clube de Portugal.
Announcing this at a press conference here on Friday, Aureliano Neves, club vice-president, said this was the first step towards the club’s initiative to develop football in India.
“India has a large young population and there is scope for development,” said Neves, while stressing that his club was keen to work with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to develop the sport at the grassroots level.
An emotional Chhetri, who was handed a club jersey, said he would try to make the most of the opportunity. “I will never forget this in my lifetime. I am playing for a nation which is ranked 156th and now I will play in a country which is No. 5, and for one of the best clubs in the world,” said the diminutive striker.
“I am not going to lose this opportunity. I will leave no stone unturned. When I will be a 40-year-old, I will be able to say that I gave whatever was humanely possible for me,” said Chhetri.
The official website of the Sporting Clube de Portugal, also known as Sporting Lisbon, claimed that “Chhetri will join the club’s reserve side.” However, Neves said the decision would rest with the coaches.
Even though Chhetri will play for the Portuguese outfit in the next season, there is a possibility of the contract being extended. Chhetri, who will turn 28 next month, will leave for Lisbon in a week or two as the Portuguese season starts on July 15.
Welcoming the development, AIFF president Praful Patel said: “it is a milestone for Indian football. Sunil will play with some top players of the world.”