Sunil Chhetri. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI: Indian football team assistant coach Shanmugam Venkatesh feels constant monitoring and exposure could help in finding a worthy successor for talisman Sunil Chhetri who continues to dazzle with his incredible game.
At 35 and after over 15 glorious years of international football, Chhetri remains the mainstay of the national team, regularly finding the back of the net while creating chances for players that look up to him.
Venkatesh, a former India captain himself, said Chhetri is one of the few top footballers comfortable with both left and right foot.
“We played together and Sunil played under my captaincy. His beauty is that he is comfortable with both feet. That I saw after a long time,” Venkatesh said during an All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) Instagram Live session.
“He works so hard, he is not only a great scorer but can also create chances, and can play in three positions,” he added.
Venkatesh was also full of praise for former stars and teammates IM Vijayan and Bhaichung Bhutia.
Among the current lot, he believed Sandesh Jhingan is ready to play outside India and also mentioned Anirudh Thapa as a special talent.
“Jhingan is a big fighter, the leader at the back,” Venkatesh said of the stopper who has been nominated for the Khel Ratna by the federation.
Venkatesh is motivated by AIFF general secretary Kushal Das‘ recent assertion that they want to have an Indian coaching the national team within the next five years.
“It’s a big motivation for Indian coaches but I must add that it’s not easy. It’s a big challenge, update is very important for coaches.”
“There is a lot of man management involved. I think young Indian coaches are really doing well in ISL and I-League. You have to work hard and know how to share knowledge with players.
“It’s a challenge to get the team ready in a national camp which lasts not more than 10 or 20 days. International football is different from how you prepare for club level or domestic level,” he said.
The 41-year-old Venkatesh was one of the few names Das had mentioned recently while speaking about the growth of Indian coaches.
“We are looking at an Indian coach for the senior national team in the next five years.
“There are many exciting coaches now, Bibiano Fernandes being one of them. There are people like Venky (Shanmugam Venkatesh) who are also maturing very fast,” Das had said.