Football

Abuse us, criticise us but please come and watch us play: Sunil Chhetri's heartfelt plea

India's Sunil Chhetri during a press conference. File Photo.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Ace Indian footballer and national team captain Sunil Chhetri on Saturday took to Twitter with a sincere appeal — to support the Indian team by watching their games in the stadium.

Chhetri, 33, one of the Indian team’s most popular and most-capped players, urged everyone to go to the stadium to watch the Blue Tigers play whenever possible.

“I request you all to please come... talk about the game, go back home, have discussions, make banners. Please get involved, this is an important time and juncture in Indian football and football in India needs you guys,” he said.

India, ranked 97 in the FIFA chart, is currently playing the 2018 Intercontinental Cup in Mumbai. On Friday, they won 5-0 over Taiwan's national team Chinese Taipei with Chhetri scoring a hat-trick. The country's all-time highest goal-getter scored his third international hat-trick in front of a near empty stadium.

 

Though the Indian football has seen a spurt in popularity in the recent years, turnout for the games remain abysmal. For instance, Saturday's international match in Mumbai was played in front of a little over 2,500 fans, most of them a part of an organised group of supporters named 'Blue Pilgrims'.

For a country brimming with shouts of 'Forca Barsa', 'YNWA' and 'Hala Madrid', takers for the native game remain few. Chhetri addressed this too in his video.

“To all of you who are fans of big European clubs and support European clubs with so much passion and sometimes you guys think that the level is not the same, so why do you waste your time? Agreed, the level is not the same, not even close but with our desire and determination, we will try our best to make your time worth,” he said.

“To all of you, who have lost hope or don’t have any hope in Indian football, we request you to come and watch us in the stadium,” Chhetri said. Addressing the internet warriors and armchair critics, he added, “I mean it’s not fun to criticise and abuse on internet. Come to the stadium, do it on our face, scream at us, shout at us, abuse us, who knows one day we might change you guys, you might start cheering for us. You guys have no idea how important you guys are and how important your support is,” he said in an impassioned video.

 

Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli took to Twitter to back up Chhetri. "Please take notice of my good friend and Indian football skipper Sunil Chhetri's post and please make an effort," he wrote. "If you want to be called a proud sporting nation, you need to accept and support all sports equally," he said in a short video.

 

Commentator and journalist Harsha Bogle too sent out a word in the team's support. "Well said Sunil Chhetri. I am bullish about Indian football and am hoping to see it reach new heights in my lifetime. All you football loving youngsters, become a part of this," he wrote.

India will play Kenya on June 4 at 8.00 p.m. at Mumbai Football Arena, Mumbai. Chhetri will celebrate his 100th cap in that game, a rare milestone in Indian football. The only other player to cross 100 caps is retired football legend Bhaichung Bhutia.


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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 3:14:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/abuse-us-criticise-us-but-please-come-and-watch-us-play-sunil-chhetris-heartfelt-plea/article24071854.ece

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