India skipper Sunil Chhetri on Sunday recalled his first international match when excitement got the better of him and he ended up running in the direction of Pakistan fans to celebrate his goal.
The Intercontinental Cup game against Kenya on Monday will be Chhetri’s 100th in international football.
“I still remember my first match for India. We were in Pakistan and Nabi-da (Syed Rahim Nabi) and I were the rookies. We were kind of chilling knowing that we may not be fielded. But Sukhi-sir (Sukhwinder Singh) made both of us to start the game. I scored a goal and all in euphoria I ran to the Pakistani fans and started to celebrate,” he said.
There was laughter all around in the room.
Chhetri said he had a dream but “never dreamed” of playing 100 international matches for India, and called it unbelievable.
“I had a dream but never dreamed of playing 100 international matches. This is unbelievable,” national team captain Chhetri said prior to a practice session at the Mumbai Football Arena.
“Did I think then that I am going to play 100 games, no. Did I ever think, I am going to play for my country, no. Did I dream of it, yes. Did I think I am going to play 100 games, I didn’t even dream of it. I never even dreamt that I am going to play 100 games for my country.
“It is something which is beyond my dream and I cannot tell you how happy and honoured I am. Only second player in the history of the country, it’s unbelievable,” Chhetri told reporters.
Chhetri said after speaking to his mother he realised the importance of the game.
“Actually it is (playing 100 games). I have always said that and I have never said with arrogance. I always said from my heart that it doesn’t matter, I am actually not thinking about milestones, but the build up to this game, reading so much, getting messages, I was talking to mum and she got emotional, how big it was for her actually made me realize how big it is.
“It’s been such a tremendous journey that it feels special. I just hope that I can keep my emotions in control, go there and stick to the plan and try to win the game,” the star striker added.
He said the team is making an effort to move up in rankings.
“We have the desire to move up the ranks. We need to keep working hard. I don’t take rankings seriously because of the way it works. Our agenda is to play well and try to win. To reach under 100 was difficult but to stay there is very, very difficult. We have to make sure to give our best in every opportunity.
“We want to improve in away matches. I just hope we have more away fixtures and do better there.”
He said that the toughest games are going to be against Kenya, UAE, Bahrain and Thailand.
“That (being the third highest goal scorer) is something I don’t take seriously. And I request my country, don’t take it too seriously. Enjoy the fact that I try and score for my country.
“Stats are something you should not take seriously. You see it that you are in the same picture with Ronaldo and Messi, but that is about it,” he added.
Chhetri said that Indian football was going in the right direction.
“We are on the right path. There has been a steady growth and we need to go far. Rubbing shoulders with the best will help us improve further,” he said.
“There is a very sad photo, where I am doing this (happy action) and nobody following me. We conceded after the 80th minute and it was 1-1,” he signed off.