The Moderator’s Opening Remarks:
The news of Sunil Chhetri joining Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon propagated like a wildfire through various social networking sites and Indian football forums for last few of days – which many believe to be the best thing to happen in Indian football arena since Baichung Bhutia’s move to English third tier side Bury FC in 1999. It is indeed a significant news to Indian football fraternity, but if we look at the bigger picture, will it prove to be as significant in terms of development of the game in India? What would Indian football gain out of Sunil Chhteri’s transfer to Sporting Lisbon?
Joining us to debate these questions are TheHardTackle’s resident Indian football feature columnists Kunwar Deep Singh and Rahul Bhutani. In my capacity as moderator, I present to you the topic to be debated –
“Sunil Chhetri To Sporting Lisbon Transfer Has No Long Term Benefit For Indian Football”
Kunwar Deep Singh, Resident Author – Indian Football, is in favor of the motion. He believes that Sunil Chetri’s move to Sporting Lisbon may help him on the personal front, but it won’t have any impact on how the game is being played and managed in India. Indian football has more complex issues to worry about at the moment and Sporting Lisbon roping in Sunil Chhetri is not going to solve any of those deep-rooted problems.
The past Sunday night, there was a sudden explosion on the online world regarding Portuguese Club Sporting Lisbon roping in Indian football team skipper Sunil Chhetri. So just like Dempo the other day, Sunil Chettri was trending among the tweets floating online. The large European football following population in India was very excited about Sunil Chhetri joining the Sporting Lisbon bandwagon. Terrific news indeed, as this puts India on the world map. But the question is whether we really need that?
India has more complex issues; at the very roots of how football is managed and handled in the country, to worry about at this moment of time. It’s not hidden from anyone that Sunil Chhetri has struggled in the last two seasons here in India and abroad. He failed to make an impact for Sabuj-Maroon last season, which even saw him play in the mid-field behind talismanic Odafa. Sunil Chhetri also got rejected in the trials at Rangers. All these observations make one wonder whether performance was the only criteria in Sporting Lisbon management’s decision to rope in the India captain?
On the personal front, definitely Sunil Chhetri would be training with a more technically, physically and mentally sound contingent, even in the B team there, and this will certainly help him to improve his overall skills, but will this have a long lasting impact on the development of Indian football? It is highly unlikely that Sunil Chettri will get to play in the first team of the Sportiinguistas in the Primeira Liga. Similar turn of events unfolded when Chettri donned the Kansas City Wizards jersey two years back and it failed to provide any boost to Indian football whatsoever. Realistically speaking, it won’t be a surprise to see a “Deja Vu” of Kansas City days in Sunil Chhetri’s Sporting Lisbon career.
Many fans and pundits believe that the Delhi lad would have been better off playing first team football in stronger Asian leagues like A-League or J-League, than warming the bench of a reserve side of some European club. Sporting Lisbon has lost its grip on the trophy of domination recently, lagging behind much fancied Porto and Benfica. Nonetheless, it would be an immense leaning curve for Sunil Chettri personally, but its impact on Indian football is limited to introduction of an Indian player to the European football following junta, who tend to forget quickly.
Rahul Bhutani, Resident Author – THT, is against the motion of this debate. He reckons, Sunil’s transfer to Sporting Lisbon will serve as a trend-setter as far as Indian football is concerned and more promising players will be able to realize their dreams of playing in a top European league in near future following Sunil’s route.
Over the course of last few years Sunil Chettri has emerged as the biggest name in Indian football and it came as no surprise when he decided to part ways with Mohun Bagan after a largely disappointing season, where he was relegated to play as midfielder behind Odafa and Barreto. The Sporting move indeed comes as a breath of fresh air for both Sunil and Indian Football. Despite all the criticism surrounding his performance in AFC Challenge Cup and I-League, the move is indeed a big one. The move doesn’t come as a total surprise after a failed trial with Rangers just 6 months back.
The numbers speak for themselves. Sunil has scored at an impressive rate with 33 goals in 58 matches and also has to his credit a memorable hat-trick in AFC Challenge Cup Final where he also earned the Man-of-Match award, besides having successful stints with Dempo and JCT. Sunil was one of the better performing players at the AFC Cup in January 2011. The diminutive striker has created a name for himself in the shadows of Baichung Bhutia and if anyone in the Indian team deserves an opportunity, it is definitely him. He also carries with him the experience of having played at the Kansas City in MLS , something which will help at Lisbon as well.
As they say, one is bound to improve if he gets to train with superior people. To be frank, I-League has nothing to offer Sunil and even though there are rumors of the deal being just a marketing strategy, Sunil will no doubt return a wiser and more technically sound player the next season. Chettri has a chance to hone his skills and see how the game is played in Europe, where he would be playing under the best infrastructure with the best players in the world. His experience will bring in a lot more to the dressing room and he would be the guiding light for the rest of the team just like Bhutia was, after he came back from his stint at Bury FC. The financial details of the deal remain undisclosed and the doubt remains if Sunil will make it to the first team but the move has no negatives for Sunil as well as Indian Football.
Sunil’s entry is also going to be trend-setter in Indian football arena. If he can perform up to the expectations, the foreign scouts would tend to look for other Indian players, thus serving the purpose of bringing India on the map of global football. If one Ali Al Hasbi can do it for Oman, why can’t Sunil Chhetri repeat the same feat for India? All in all, both Sunil as well as Indian football will reap significant benefit out of this deal.
All comments are moderated and offensive content will be deleted by the moderator without prior warning. We encourage critical thinking and questioning, but please don’t let your anonymity on the Internet get the better of you.
Inviting all Indian football fans to share your opinion in the comments section below and we’ll collate your ideas (even give you a mention) in the closing remarks. The final verdict is in your hands!