The Blue Colts will face Vietnam in their opening fixture of the AFC U-16 Championship, on Friday.
Almost all football enthusiasts in India idolize Sunil Chhetri. The striker has awed us all with his goals for both club and country. Leading the Blue Tigers from upfront, the 34-year old expressed his satisfaction with the progress and development of the national U-16 boys’ team ahead of the upcoming AFC U-16 Championship.
The U-16 boys have played 20 International matches against U-16 National Teams (which include USA, Serbia, Japan, Iraq, DPR Korea among all) since January 2018. How much does that help?
It helps in a big way. The team is already doing well and training under a very able coach and playing games against the likes of USA, Japan, Iraq – and mind you all U-16 National Teams. It gives our boys that much-needed experience which will turn them into better players.
Understandably a lot many kids of the U-16 squad stay in awe of you and idolise you. Your comments.
(Laughs). That’s flattering. I have seen them play and are far better than any U-16 team whom I have seen previously. I am their biggest fan.
You have watched them play courtesy of some online streaming. What struck you the most?
The unity in the team, the fearless nature of the boys and the skills impressed me immensely. The first touch of almost everyone was a delight to watch. It just tells you how well they have been coached. The boys are talented, and seems to be eager to work hard and learn. On top of that having Bibiano Fernandes as their Coach has given them the leader they needed to improve to their fullest.
They are clubbed in a group involving Iran, Indonesia and Vietnam. With all your experience, what would be your message for them prior to the tournament?
I would tell them to make sure we prepare as well as we can. And once you reach tournament you just need to relax. I am sure they will give 100% on the field. I just want them to enjoy every bit of it. I will also be praying that no one gets injured. Touch wood. Continue the good work and be humble.
You had watched the U-17 World Cup team play last season and now this batch. Are the younger teams a bit more confident nowadays?
Obviously. They are far more confident and definitely much more prepared and aware.