By Nilanjan Datta
An elated Sunil Chhetri spoke to www.the-aiff.com after he was declared the AIFF Player-of-the-Year. Besides summing up the year, Chhetri also spoke at length about what the significance of the Award, about him hitting his peak form and his current injury. Excerpts:
What does the AIFF Player-of-the-Year mean to you?
It’s the highest recognition for an Indian footballer and I am honoured to receive the Award for the second time. At a time when I confined to my home with my plastered leg, this is perhaps, the best Christmas and New Year present. The Year started off well for me and ends in the best possible fashion. I’m elated -- at a loss of words. The Award explains that I’m improving with every given day.
How do you sum up 2011?
It all began with the Asian Cup where I scored two goals. I played for Chirag United in the I-League and then shifted base to McDowell Mohun Bagan where I have been among the goals. In between, I received the Arjuna Award and was part of the triumphant squad in the SAFF Championship. I also carry the memories of quite a few International Friendlies where I played a part for my team.
Looking back, it has been an excellent year for me. A footballer always needs to constantly keep himself motivated and look eager for the next challenge. In the entire year, the moment I finished a match, I longed for the next challenge to kick-off. That explains the year for me.
How much of a helping hand did your teammates play in the Award?
A lot! Football is a team game and none can survive or excel without the help of the other. I need to thank all my coaches, my teammates, the support staff for their co-operation and the fans. I can’t just walk away with all the credit. I have learnt a lot from them and it’s because of them, I feel, I’m on the verge of hitting my peak form.
Give us an update on your injury.
It’s a Grade-2 ligament tear on the left ankle and my plaster would be coming off on January 5. After that, it will be tentatively two weeks of rehab before I get back to action. Sitting idle at home is the most painful experience for a footballer. When you receive such an Award, you intend to hit the field immediately. But I’m helpless. That pains.
By Nilanjan Datta