Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri, who has been named for the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, on Wednesday said that the journey that he has been through has been nothing short of a dream.
"I am thrilled, I am really thankful and honoured," he averred. "I have always said that it is a dream that I have gone through, and it would not have been possible without my family, my friends, my wife, my close group, the teammates that I have had and the coaches that I have played under. They have all played an important part in who I am today," he added.
"It has been amazing to play for the National Team, for so many years, for the number of matches, it has been an outstanding journey."
Sunil was named one among the 12 sportspersons by the MYAS who will be awarded the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award for 2021.
In fact, Sunil will be the first Indian Footballer to receive the Award - the highest one for sporting achievements in India. The Awards will be given as part of the National Sports Awards, which will be held on November 13 at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi.
Asked about his role models, he outlined his philosophy of grasping anything positive around, Sunil expressed: "The amount of encouragement and inspiration around us is a lot, we just have to keep looking. The hunger of trying to learn more is needed, and you will seek out from so many people."
He highlighted that it might not be from the same vertical of life but anywhere. During the pandemic, quite a few benevolent people went out of their way to lend a hand for others, they inspired the 37-year-old footballer as well.
"There were many people who came out to help people during the Covid-19 pandemic, be it financially or on the ground. They put their lives in danger and gave it their all. These people are extraordinary! So if anyone is looking for inspiration, it is all around, and if you need to find it, you can look for it anywhere."
Since debuting for the Blue Tigers against Pakistan in Quetta on June 12, 2005, Sunil has rewritten Indian football history many times. But, the Khel Ratna awardee, as always, feels apprehensive about discussing the statistics.
"I am just happy that I get the opportunity to score for my country. That is about it! To see my name on the big screen, even for just five seconds, and to know I have just contributed in some manner for my country, is all that I need. Once I am done whenever it is, we can pick out a goal and cherish the moment and talk about it. Once I have a big belly with a lot of food, we will talk about it then," Chhetri quipped.
Sunil on 80 goals is currently tied with Lionel Messi at the second place in the goalscorers list among active footballers at the International level, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading on 115 goals.
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