The Blue Tigers’ skipper cited the examples of Jerry Lalrinzuala, Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika to illustrate his point.
Just a day before the Indian national team faces DPR Korea in their second match at the Intercontinental Cup, Sunil Chhetri has sung praises in favour of the Indian Super League. The Indian skipper has explained the transition and the development the league has brought to Indian football in its five years of existence.
The Blue Tigers suffered a heavy 2-4 defeat in the opening fixture against Tajikistan and Igor Stimac’s men will be raring to go all out against the DPRK in a must-win encounter. Chhetri scored a brace against Usmon Toshev’s men and recently bagged the AIFF Men’s Player of the Year for his heroics with Bengaluru FC and the national team.
Watch: Sunil Chhetri full media interaction ahead of game against DPR Korea
At a media interaction on Friday, the talisman acknowledged the impact of the ISL in transforming Indian players individually and also as a team. The 34-year-old forward gave the example of Kerala Blasters defender Sandesh Jhingan, who has had a meteoric rise for club and country in the past few years.
“A lot of good changes have happened recently. First thing that comes to my mind is just the way they (players) take care of themselves and they think about football has changed.”
“A Sandesh Jhingan today is much more aware than any player that you can think about 10-15 years ago. He is much more knowledgeable. He is altogether much more a machine, much more equipped to do well. Has ISL helped? Definitely,” Chhetri said explaining the impact of the cash-rich league.
The Indian skipper feels that getting the opportunity to train and compete with top professional players from all around the world has helped the Indian players to grow and set higher standards for themselves.
“I told this to Sandesh, that when we played against UAE, Bahrain and Thailand, with due respect to these three teams, he didn’t face a Coro (Ferran Corominas) or Miku or Lanza (Manuel Lanzarote). But, in the league, he faces them. They are top teams, but I don’t think there was a Coro, Miku, Dimas (Delgado) or a Lanza or an (Bartolomew) Ogbeche. These are good, top players. I’m not saying they are world-class, but they are top players,” he added.
Watch: India train before clash with DPR Korea
The Bengaluru FC talisman feels that the training regime and the influence of top players playing in the Indian Super League puts a positive impact on their Indian counterparts. He believes that is the primary reason why the footballing standards and the players have improved in the last few years.
“So, Jerry (Lalrinzuala), Sandesh and Anas (Edathodika) are all playing and training with the likes of Coro, Miku, Lanza. That is why they have improved. So, whatever improvement you are seeing is also because of training, awareness and seeing good things and trying to replicate them. These are small things that have changed in the last five years,” he concluded.