When Sunil Chhetri scored Bengaluru FC’s second goal against Jamshedpur on Thursday, in the process bagging his 100th for the club, it exemplified his importance and aura within the side. In a situation where both teams were playing for pride, the Blues skipper was once again instrumental in fortifying his team’s resolve of getting something from the game even after going 3-0 down in the first half. The fact that they could not find that elusive equaliser in the end was unfortunate, but what their second half performance proved is that even at 36, Chhetri is still the heartbeat of the team.
Joining Bengaluru from Churchill, a club that he had an emotional attachment with, must have been a difficult decision all those years back. But what makes him special is that he took on the challenge of signing for a newly formed club even though he would have got the opportunity to play in AFC tournaments if he had stayed back at Churchill. Instead, he took it upon himself to take the club to new heights and eventually captained the Blues on their way to the final of the AFC Cup in 2016, a competition in which they featured regularly between 2015 and 2018.
Which brings us to the all-important question, will he finish his career at the club? Interim head coach Naushad Moosa seems to think so. “As far as Sunil is concerned I doubt he wants to leave Bengaluru FC. He will finish (his career) at Bengaluru FC. The feeling that he has for the club for seven years, I'm sure he will be attached to the club", he said of his captain after the game.
Although this was entirely his opinion, it does point towards the obvious love and respect that Chhetri and the club share. Having joined them in 2013, he has spent the best part of seven years at Bengaluru and gave them their maiden Indian Super League (ISL) trophy in 2018-19 season. Besides that, the talismanic striker has led them to two I-League titles, two Federation Cups and one Super Cup in a trophy-laden spell that is still going strong. He is also the highest Indian goalscorer in the ISL’s history with 47 goals from 94 games, with 40 of them coming in the blue of Bengaluru. No wonder then that he is such a cult hero for the club’s fans who absolutely adore him and respect what he has achieved for them.
With the club enduring one of its worst seasons in the top flight this term, wholesale changes are believed to be in the offing. That would be understandable as well considering that this team needs fresh legs and a fresh impetus to go back where it rightfully belongs, in the upper echelons of India’s footballing discourse. Be that as it may, after scoring eight goals in 20 matches in what has been a forgettable campaign, it would be a huge surprise if Sunil Chhetri is one of the names in the list of outgoings once the season ends in March. That is because Bengaluru FC need him to pull them up, now more than ever.