Sunil Chhetri
Sunil Chhetri (in blue) in action in an international fixture against Bangladesh. Image Credit: AFP file

Dubai: Sunil Chhetri, India’s football captain and the game’s biggest brand ambassador in the country after Baichung Bhutia, is on the verge of adding another feather to his cap as he is poised to complete 15 years on the international arena this week (June 12).

The official twitter handle of Indian football team acknowledged Chhetri’s feat and also started a hashtag - #15YearsOfSC11.

Their post read: “Captain Marvel @chetrisunil11 completes 15 glorious years in International football this week. Join us as we bring to you some unseen stories of the Blue Tigers legend and a lot more in the coming days. #IndianFootball #BackTheBlues.”

Speaking to the AIFF website, Subrata Bhattacharya, his first club coach at the Mohun Bagan Club recalled his first impressions of Chhetri as a teenager. ‘‘With regards to Sunil, he did show traits that could make him a top striker. He had good pace, and his shooting was more than decent. What really struck me was the desire he showed. At first sight, from the perspective of a tall defender like myself, his diminutive figure did not evoke any thoughts that he would be able to get on the goal,’’ Bhattacharya, a former international defender himself, said.

The All India Football Federation has released posters in celebration of Sunil Chhetri's 15 years in international football. Image Credit: Supplied picture

‘‘But he showed an excellent reading of the game. He constantly made runs off the ball, barking at his teammates to pass the ball to him. He was just five-foot-seven, but whenever there was a setpiece, he’d stick himself right into the towering defenders. That really showed the most important thing a coach looks for in a player – hunger,’’ said Bhattacharya, who now is Chhetri’s father-in-law in real life.

Chhetri, meanwhile, urged people to come out and support those who have lost a lot during Super Cyclone Amphan which lashed West Bengal last month.

“Cyclone Amphan may not be in the news anymore, but the trail of devastation it has left is a long one,” Chhetri said in a tweet from his Twitter handle.

“Have come across so many people who are dreading the thought of rebuilding their lives and livelihoods and some of those conversations have been gut-wrenching.

“Just want to say that it would be great if all of us those who have, can reach out and give to those who have lost. There are a lot of people and organisations doing some good work to help. Make an informed choice and help in whatever way - big or small. It all counts,” said the striker, who now plays for Indian Super League side Bengaluru FC but has spent a lot of time in Kolkata playing for the two heavyweights: Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.