"I am enjoying my football and I am not going away anytime soon," said talismanic Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri, indicating that he will keep on playing for another three to four years.
The 35-year-old Chhetri, who holds the national record of most international matches and most number of goals, made it clear that retirement plans are currently not on his mind. "I don't want to put numbers (on how long I will keep playing). But I am enjoying my football and I am not going away anytime soon," Chhetri said in a live chat on the Facebook page of Indian football team.
"I told my wife that I am feeling so fit. I am going to challenge Udanta and Ashique Kuruniyan (both India and Bengaluru FC team-mates) for a sprint. Unless a Sahal (Abdul Samad) scores a lot of goals and push me away (from the national team), I am going to be there, playing for the team."
Chhetri completes 15 years of international career on Friday since making his debut in Quetta against Pakistan in a friendly series in 2005. He had scored on his debut in the 1-1 drawn match. Since then, he has played 115 matches and scored 72 goals. He is the second highest international scorer among active footballers, behind Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and above Argentine maestro Lionel Messi.
"I am fortunate to have played 15 years for my country. It is a dream, 3-4 years more probably and it will be (nearly) 20 years. Who would have thought to play 20 years and so I am living on my dream."
Chhetri, however, is almost unlikely to play in a World Cup match as India is out of reckoning for a berth in the 2022 showpiece in Doha while the 2026 edition is too far. Teased by national team-mate Sandesh Jhingan to be prepared for the 2026 World Cup, Chhetri said, "I don't know about 2026 World Cup. But I would love to see Anirudh Thapa sending a cross to Jhingan and I would love to watch it from the stands. Till the time I am with the national team, I will give my best."
Chhetri also said he has been in talks with some people for a biopic which could come out in the near future. "I had a couple of meetings and I will not tell you with whom. It was nice but it did not materialise. It may be in future. If and when it happens, the story will be mine and it will be what I want to be. But I will not be a part to choose the star cast or who will direct it," he said.
He also talked about the influence another legend and his former captain Bhaichung Bhutia had on his career. "Bhai was my hero and he had immense influence on me. When I was at 9th or 10th standard, I went to watch Durand Cup (in Delhi) and wanted to touch him but the security people did not allow it," Chhetri said.
"But two years later, I was in Mohun Bagan and he was also there. He came to me and said 'I have heard about you kid and you are doing well'. To share the dressing room of club and country with Bhai was amazing experience. I learnt a lot from him and other senior players like Renedy Singh," he added.