New Delhi: Sunil Chhetri, one of the greatest footballers that India has produced, on Saturday made an impassioned plea to all the fans of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo — “abuse us, criticise us but please come to watch the Indian national team play.”
With less than two weeks left for World Cup football to begin and broadcasters urging fans of the ‘beautiful game’ to profess their love for their “doosri country” via hashtags, country’s all-time highest goal-getter demanded some love and affection for their ‘first country’.
India, who have improved their ranking to 97 in current Fifa chart, routed Chinese Taipei 5-0 on Friday in the opening game of the four-nation tournament with less than 2000 fans watching from the stands.
The skipper who scored his third international hat-trick in-front a near empty Mumbai Football Arena (MFA) stands, had a message for all the resident ‘Gooners’, ‘Red Devils’ and ‘Catalans’, for whom Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona means “we”.
“To all of you who are fans of big European clubs and support European clubs with so much passion and sometimes you guys think that the level is not the same, so why do you waste your time? Agreed, the level is not the same, not even close but with our desire and determination, we will try our best to make your time worth,” Chhetri’s plea was not only about accepting where they stand but also what little they want from the fans.
“To all of you, who have lost hope or don’t have any hope in Indian football, we request you to come and watch us in the stadium,” the skipper said.
Chhetri had a request for all the arm-chair critics of Indian football — please abuse but make the ‘Blue Tigers’ feel relevant.
“I mean it’s not fun to criticise and abuse on internet. Come to the stadium, do it on our face, scream at us, shout at us, abuse us, who knows one day we might change you guys, you might start cheering for us. You guys have no idea how important you guys are and how important your support is,” the skipper appealed.
India will face Kenya on June 4, which will incidentally be Chhetri’s 100th international match.
“I request you all to please come, talk about the game, go back home, have discussions, make banners. Please get involved, this is an important time and juncture in Indian football and football in India needs you guys.”