New Delhi : The talismanic Sunil Chhetri on Friday said there should be “no turning back” for Indian football, which found unbridled joy in Bengaluru FC’s rare achievement, and urged the country to keep backing his club as it seeks to script yet another piece of history in the AFC Cup final.
Bengaluru FC became the first Indian club to qualify for the final of a continental tournament after they defeated defending champions Johor Darul Ta’zim in the semifinals on 4-2 aggregate last month.
They will face Air Force Club of Iraq in the summit showdown in Doha tomorrow.
“This final is the biggest game of my club career and there are no second thoughts on that. But more importantly, it means so much to Indian football too. The club and the country has caught the attention of Asian football and there should be no turning back from here,” Chhetri said in an interview on Friday.
The country’s all-time highest scorer with 51 goals in 91 international appearances is determined to make it even better.
“We have created history by becoming the first side to make the final and in a day we have a chance to go one step further. But whatever the result, this is a big occasion and a feat that should inspire the country.”
The 32-year-old striker had urged the country to support the Blues unitedly ahead of their crucial second leg semifinal at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, and India responded to his call wholeheartedly.
“It was amazing to watch the whole country come together to back us in our bid to make the final and I hope it stays the same way now.
“The atmosphere that night at the fortress was incredible and I’m glad we put on a performance worthy of all the hype that surrounded the game. We feed off the energy of our fans and they will play a big role on the 5th, even though they will be far away from us.”
Before this, the farthest an Indian club had advanced in a continental tournament was the two AFC Cup semifinal appearances by Dempo in 2008 and East Bengal in 2013.
Chhetri has been at the forefront of his club’s march to the final of the tournament, scoring twice in the second leg of the last-four stage game, as well as its triumphs in domestic competition. But he remains modest about his ability to find the target consistently.
“I’m not sure if there’s any secret or set formula to that. For me, it always boils down to giving nothing short of all I’ve got, once I get on the pitch. There are days when I fail to deliver and fall short but the beauty of football is that while you’re in it, it always gives you another game.
“That said, I’ve been surrounded by fantastic coaches, staff and teammates who are all working hard and pushing in the same direction. It makes things easier for me,” Chhetri said, giving credit to his team-mates and the support staff.