Indian Football Team

It’s going to be one of the best days of my life, Sunil Chhetri on World Cup qualification dream

Yash Pratap SinghYash Pratap Singh
November 7 2023
Sunil Chhetri celebrates goal in Hero Intercontinental Cup 2023 final against Lebanon at The Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar Gurpreet Singh Sandhu Sandesh Jhingan Asian Games names not in squad Kalyan Chaubey request organisers Asian Games squad Igor Stimac

India will kick start their Qualifiers with game against Kuwait

The international break will get underway very soon and will also get the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers underway. India’s first assignment will begin on November 16 in an away game to Kuwait followed by a home clash to reigning Asian Champions Qatar.

The 2026 World Cup will be held in Canada, Mexico and USA and will be a 48-team tournament offering greater opportunities to teams in all confederations. AFC nations will get eight direct spots and a further place open via the FIFA Play-Off Tournament.

India will rely on their main man Sunil Chhetri to help them to the next round. The Indian skipper spoke to FIFA during the international window in October. Here are the excerpts from the interview:

Thoughts on India playing the FIFA World Cup

The skipper was asked about his thoughts on India qualifying for the FIFA World Cup. He replied and said that the day it happens, it would be the best day of his life and he has a lot of dreams about that day.“When that happens, the country will go mad. As an Indian, it’s going to be one of the best days of my life. I have so many dreams about that day. It is going to be humongous.” 

He also added that it would bring a lot of anticipation all throughout the nation.

“The anticipation, the hope that it will bring to the complete nation is something that I know I will never forget in my life. There are so many people like me who can’t wait to see that day, and I just hope it comes soon for us.

Chhetri also said that whenever he dreams, he dreams like an Indian and will root for India in every game that they play. 

‘When I dream, I dream more as an Indian, more as a fan. Me being there in any capacity, it doesn’t matter, because I know I’ll be a fan. I’ll be watching every game that India plays and rooting for my country,” he asserted.

On playing for India

The Indian international was asked about how long he plans to continue playing for India. He said that he doesn’t have any long term plans, but he’s enjoying everything around him.

“Because I’m 39, I don’t have long-term targets as far as me being on the pitch is concerned. I think about the next three months, and then the next three months, and then we see how it goes. Right now, I feel really good physically. I can see that I do contribute to the team, both for my country and my club.

He also said that he’ll hang up his boots the day he stops enjoying the beautiful game.

“As long as I’m enjoying it, I will be here. I don’t know how many days, how many months, how many years that will be. The day I stop enjoying, and the day I can’t contribute, I will be done. I’m just happy that I’m here. This is the bonus period, I’m just enjoying it, I don’t know when it’s going to end. I just want to enjoy it,” he added.

The Stimac effect

India are being led by former Croatian international Igor Stimac since 2019. Chehtri was quizzed about his thoughts of playing under Igor Stimac. He said that Igor is more like a father and an elder brother to players.

“Apart from his technical and tactical knowledge, him being in a similar situation with the Croatia team, and doing something extraordinary and amazing, has helped him understand us a lot. He is more than a coach, he is more like a father figure – or an elder brother for people like me who are fossils – to everyone. 

Chhetri added that the head coach takes his job very seriously and knows everything about the players.

“He understands and takes that part of his coaching job very seriously. He knows the psyche, he understands what a player is going through, what he needs. That is why you will see all the players are very happy with him. He keeps in touch with every player. He keeps providing, via his staff, the training schedules that a player has to follow.

The Bengaluru FC skipper also mentioned that the head coach makes it very clear that the level in the national team set-up is always set higher.

“He makes it very clear that when we come to the national team, the level is a little bit higher. He is always on our case, but when we come here we feel safe. You can be vulnerable, you can come and express, and that is one of the biggest qualities that he has. 

The 39-year-old also added that Igor Stimac has played a big role in India’s progress over the last four years.

“If you see our performances, four years back and now, anyone will tell you there is a good jump. And that is something that has happened because of Igor Stimac and the entire team. Everyone has chipped in together, and everyone has pulled each other up.” he quipped.


Chhetri was recently blessed with a baby boy. The skipper was asked about his thoughts on becoming a father. He replied and said that he couldn’t sleep out of excitement for the first few days.

“For the first five days, I didn’t sleep because of excitement,” he said. “I was awake the whole night just looking at him and talking to him. Then on the sixth day my wife told me I had to sleep in a different room as she was worried I was too tired and was going to get injured.

He also mentioned that it is an experience which can only be felt and it changed a lot in his life.

“It’s such an experience which can only be felt. Once you hold your baby, it is unbelievable. When I held my son for the first time, everything about you changes, the way you think about life changes. I just want to go back home wherever I am. Whenever I am going for an away trip, I just want to finish the games and go back home.” he concluded.

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