Chhetri keeps option of playing for Asian clubs open

New Delhi: A "frustrated" Sunil Chhetri is not ready to just warm benches at Sporting Lisbon B team and may consider plying his trade at top Asian clubs if he does not get to play with the Portuguese side.

Chhetri, who joined the reserve side of the top Portuguese side last July, is now uncertain of his immediate future but he has made it clear that he does not want to spend his remaining one year at the club without playing matches.

"I am leaving for Portugal very soon and speak to the people at the club, including the coach. I will speak to them and find out what they want from me. I will also express my views and get the feedback. Accordingly, I will decide what to do," said Chhetri who just played five games for Sporting Lisbon B in the six months he was there.

"As of now I can`t tell anything what I would be doing. I have one more year left with Sporting Lisbon but I want to play matches and not sit at the benches," he told PTI in a telephonic interview.

Chhetri said trying for some top Asian clubs could be an option.

"Yes, I will consider trying for Asian clubs. That is an option. But as I said I am not going to take any decision now. After I speak to people at Sporting Lisbon, I will think over what to do, whether to go for another loan or look for other options," said Chhetri who played for I-League-winning Churchill Brothers on loan.

Chhetri, who has played for 66 international matches for India since 2005, has not had a happy career at clubs outside the country. He was signed by English side Queens Park Rangers for a three-year deal in 2009 but it did not work as he could not get the work permit, necessary to play in England as India was ranked below 70 in FIFA charts.

The diminutive Delhi player then signed in 2010 for Major League Soccer side Kansas City Wizards which later changed name to Sporting Kansas. There also, he did not feature in a single MLS match in his one-year stint, though he played for a game in Lamar Hunt U S Open Cup.

Talking about the national football scene, Chhetri said he was not concerned about All India Football Federation`s decision to change the format of I-League to conference style but would prefer changes in the scheduling, including doing away with playing under intense heat conditions.

"As a player I am not concerned with which format I am going to play. Whether it`s MLS style conference format or otherwise I have no issues. But I think the AIFF should do away with these matches which starts at 2pm or 3pm," he said.

"I remember matches at Salt Lake Stadium which we have to play after having lunch. Leave alone playing a football match, we could not even walk properly. The heat that comes up from the synthetic pitch, you cannot expect a footballer to play in those conditions," he added.

He also said that the dates for I-League matches should not be changed.

"If the match date scheduled is say Jan 10, then the match should be held on that date and should not be changed without any rhyme or reason," he said.

Chhetri also rued that the national team was not getting enough international matches.

Asked about India getting to play just two international friendlies this year so far, Chhetri said, "International matches are important to rise in FIFA rankings and to improve the profile of Indian football."

Asked if he has been in line to sign for the much-hyped IPL-style football tournament to be jointly organised by the AIFF and its commercial partners IMG-Reliance, Chhetri said, "Nobody knows in concrete terms about the tournament. It`s all in flux and so I would not want to comment much.

"I have had talks with the IMG on general things and not about signing to play in that tournament," he said.

Chhetri met Sachin Tendulkar in Mumbai in a football event recently and he said he was bowled by the cricket icon`s humility and passion for his game.

"It was an inspiring meeting. I discussed with him about the difference in the two games, the passion associated and other things. His humility was exceptional and from what he spoke I could understand the passion he has for cricket.

"To interact with somebody who has played for more than 20 years and excelled in that and yet so humble, it was an amazing experience."