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Sunil Chhetri set to skip SAFF Cup in bid to provide opportunities to youngsters

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The Indian skipper explained his views in a brief note.

While the Indian football team are on their way to Sydney to train for the upcoming SAFF Championship, the Indian captain Sunil Chhetri made a sudden statement to the Press Trust of India (PTI) regarding his participation in the tournament in Bangladesh.

Chhetri stated, "It is not a declaration, but I think I have had enough of SAFF. I was fortunate to play SAFF three or four times. I am not declaring anything right now, but I had a chat with the coach and he said he wants to bring a lot of junior players which I think is a very good thing."

India who have an eagle's eye on next year's Asian Cup in the UAE are treating the SAFF Championship in Bangladesh as an exposure tour for more youngsters. Coach Constantine seems optimistic about the fact that the younger lads have stepped up and will hopefully defend the title next month. India who will start their SAFF campaign against Sri Lanka have won the title seven times and are the favourites to lift the Cup once again. The tournament will be hosted in Bangladesh from September 4 to 15.

Chhetri further justified his previous comment by saying, "It's not trying to demean the other teams in the SAFF region. It's a great opportunity for the youngsters to come to the table and show the coach that they also have potential. I think even with the U-23 team, we are very strong in the SAFF region. I hope they do well and we retain the championship."


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The 34-year-old also expressed his disappointment as the IOA did not allow the Indian team to compete at the Asian Games in Indonesia. The Indian Olympic Association claimed that the Indian men and women's football team don't stand a chance to win medals in the Asian Games.

Chhetri expressed his disappointment when he was awarded the Sportsperson of The Country at the Calcutta Sports Journalists' Club Annual Awards 2018. The national skipper asserted, "I hope we can rectify things. Suddenly India is not going to win medals. You got to give them a chance to do that. This is the government thing, not in my hands. If the boys would have got a chance, it would have been lovely. Any tournament the under-age teams play is great and I just hope in the future we can neglect these things.

"In future, I just hope in future all authorities can help in that and the boys get enough opportunity, especially the U-16 team as they are really good', he added.

The Indian skipper ws impressed by the Indian U-16 side and their recent victory over Asian champions Iraq U-16 at the West Asian Football Federation tournament. Similarl,y the country's U-20 side also came up with a shocking 2-1 win over Argentina, despite being a man down in the COTIF Cup.

"Bibiano Fernandes (U-16 head coach) is doing a great job and the U-16 team has potential to do great things in future. We have to preserve them. They are a treat to watch," the Indian skipper concluded.

Published: Sat Aug 18, 2018 10:35 AM IST

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