India team captain Sunil Chhetri claims that he was told that he wasn’t good enough, he signed a 3-year0old contract with Sporting CP.
India’s football team captain Sunil Chhetri was in the best years of his career when Sporting CP came to knock his door. He was 26-year-old when he joined the Portuguese club.
Although the Indian captain returned to his native land only after spending 9 months in the club. Looking back to that time, Chhetri reflects back to his struggle in the European country.
“After one week, I was told by the head coach ‘you are not good enough, get lost to B team’. He was right. The pace in Sporting Lisbon A team was too fast for me (compared to) when I was playing in Indian leagues,” Chhetri was quoted as saying by the indiansuperleague.com.
”I gave a shot for nine months, played five games, scoring zero goal. There was a 4 or 5 million release clause. I was to be there for three years but I told coach I want to go back to India and nobody is going to pay this amount, just release me. They were really nice,” said Chhetri, now 35.
Chhetri’s first foreign stint was for the American side Kansas City Wizards in 2010. He also had a disappointing stint at the Major League Soccer side and he returned home within one year after playing just one game for the first team. He did not play any MLS game.
“I played 6-7 friendly games, scored two hat-tricks and a brace and I just thought ‘I am going to start’. But we use to play 4-2-3-1 with a lone striker and (Kei) Kamara used to play. He is a big African lad and he was always chosen before me. So, I did not get the chance in first 4-5 games. I was so sad, I was not used to sitting on the bench.”
Then I had a lovely pre-season where I scored 14 goals in 7 games. I thought I am going to start. But it did not happen for five games and I just started deteriorating. It was more mental than physical,” said Chhetri who is the second-best scorer in international matches from among active players with 72 goals.”
Before going to Kansas City, Chhetri signed a deal with English side Queens Park Rangers in 2009 but the Football Association did not allow him the work permit as India’s ranking was low.
If he had been able to play in Europe at that age, probably he would have had a successful career at that age, which the player himself admitted in his earlier interviews.