How Sunil Chhetri has redefined the idea of fitness in Indian football
Written by: Waseem Zaidi
The Padma Shri awardee is showing no signs of slowing down even at the age of 34.
Sunil Chhetri is like fine wine that gets only better with age. Popularly known as ‘Captain Fantastic”, the former national senior football team captain is now well into the latter part of his illustrious career. However, it seems that he never aged and it's just a number for him. At the age of 34, Sunil has consistently kept the levels of his fitness high. A less informed person could hardly guess his age by looking at him, such is his demeanor.
Chettri is a focal point in the national team regardless if he's wearing the captain's armband or not. He is a natural leader who is a figure of inspiration not only for fellow teammates but also for the new generation of young footballers and millions of football fans in India. He has been a definitive factor in the improved fitness standards in the team. Leading by example, the 34-year-old is healthier, fitter and fresher than ever and sets a high bar for other players to follow.
At a stage where players begin to slow down and become static ball-players, Chhetri can be seen making lung-bursting sprints behind the opponent's defensive line. Not only that, he is matching the pace & effort displayed by young players such as Holicharan Narzary or Udanta Singh, and even outperforms the youngsters at times.
Chhetri believes in leading by example rather than lecturing his fellow teammates
Interestingly, after the third Asian Cup 2019 group match against Bahrain, he is now joint top with Bhaichung Bhutia in terms of overall appearances for India in international football. On top of that, Sunil is also the leading all time top goalscorer for the Blue Tigers. His contributions in the club level are equally impressive, having played for top clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Mumbai City, and Bengaluru FC among others. All in all, he has served Indian football long and hard without ever coming short on effort, which rightly makes him arguably the best football player, India has ever produced.
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The secret to Chhetri’s incredible fitness is his work rate off the field. His lifestyle is a huge factor in his ability to stay free of injuries. He is very disciplined and follows his fitness routine diligently. One look at his physique, one can observe that he is leaner and muscular than ever, and that is a result of his weight training in the gym where he sweats it out and swears by his routine. His Instagram account is a perfect window into his lifestyle where one can explore more about his off-the-field efforts to stay fit and maintain that high level of fitness. He constantly uploads videos and photos of his gym sessions and is also a mindful eater. He swears by a well-balanced nutritious diet and follows his routine with discipline.
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The Bengaluru man is also one of the fittest players in the ISL
Gone are the days when Indian players were outplaced and overpowered by other international sides. The players are more faster, stronger and possess endurance of the highest order. They press their opponents from the get-go and consistently manage to keep up the pressure for the whole duration of the match, Sunil Chhetri is the best example of it, as he never backs down from sprinting until the final whistle.
The high level of intensity at which the team in general operates can be very taxing, especially on Chhetri, considering his age. India's performance over the three group matches in the Asian Cup 2019 was a testament to their new levels of fitness where they fought hard till the final whistle in each match. Despite getting knocked out of the continental tournament early, the squad bowed out as warriors.
The Indian talisman visits the gym regularly
The improved levels of fitness and better conditioning of the players by the coaching staff has enabled Indian players to match their faster and stronger opponents in all aspects. In fact, the improved physical attributes of the players have led to an improvement in the physical attributes ratings of the Indian national football team players in FIFA 19. Credit must be given where due and it is safe to say, Chhetri has inspired the upcoming generation of domestic players in achieving better levels of fitness and has redefined the previously accepted notions of fitness in Indian football.
Will Sunil Chhetri play in the next edition of the AFC Asian Cup if India qualifies successfully? Most probably, yes. He has the mind, the body and the determination to carry him forward. He is nowhere near stopping and has a lot left to contribute to Indian football's march to greatness.
Published: Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:12 AM IST