India captain Sunil Chhetri today said he might skip next month’s SAFF Cup in Bangladesh.
“It’s not a declaration but I think I have had enough of SAFF,” the 34-year-old said.
“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.”
Defending champions India have won the title seven times and would start as a favourite when Bangladesh hosts the event for the third time from September 4 to 15. “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,” Chhetri said.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had omitted the men and women’s football teams from the Asian Games contingent, stating that they don’t stand a chance to win medals in the continental event to be held in Indonesian twin cities of Jakarta and Palembang.
“I hope we can rectify things. Suddenly India is not going to win medals. You got to give them a chance to do that,” Chhetri told reporters on the sidelines of the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club Annual Awards 2018 here today.
The star Indian footballer was adjudged Best Sportsperson of the country.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Recently India U-16 team stunned reigning Asian champions Iraq with a last-gasp goal at the West Asian Football Federation Tournament, while India’s U-20 football team shocked Argentina 2-1 despite being reduced to 10-men at the COTIF Cup.
“I am very hopeful about the U-16 team. Against Iraq, we had more ball possession. We had more attacks. The U20 team, I saw a few clippings and we had to defend a lot against Argentina. And that was one game. I haven’t seen them much but it’s a great result,” Chhetri said.
“Bibiano Fernandes (U-16 football 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.”