New Delhi: “I am enjoying my football and am not going away anytime soon,” said talismanic Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri, indicating that he will keep on playing for another three to four years.
The 35-year-old Chhetri, who holds the national record of most international matches and most number of goals, made it clear that retirement plans are currently not on his mind.
“I don’t want to put numbers (on how long I will keep playing). But I am enjoying my football and I am not going away anytime soon,” Chhetri said in a live chat on the Facebook page of Indian football team.
“I told my wife that I am feeling so fit. I am going to challenge Udanta and Ashique Kuruniyan (both India and Bengaluru FC team-mates) for a sprint. Unless a Sahal (Abdul Samad) scores a lot of goals and push me away (from the national team), I am going to be there, playing for the team.”
Chhetri completes 15 years of international career on Friday since making his debut in Quetta against Pakistan in a friendly series in 2005. He had scored on his debut in the 1-1 drawn match.
Since then, he has played 115 matches and scored 72 goals. He is the second highest international scorer among active footballers, behind Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and above Argentine maestro Lionel Messi.
“I am fortunate to have played 15 years for my country. It is a dream, 3-4 years more probably and it will be (nearly) 20 years. Who would have thought to play 20 years and so I am living on my dream.”
Chhetri, however, is almost unlikely to play in a World Cup match as India is out of reckoning for a berth in the 2022 showpiece in Doha while the 2026 edition is too far.
Teased by national team-mate Sandesh Jhingan to be prepared for the 2026 World Cup, Chhetri said, “I don’t know about 2026 World Cup. But I would love to see Anirudh Thapa sending a cross to Jhingan and I would love to watch it from the stands.
“Till the time I am with the national team, I will give my best.”