Sunil Chhetri can really leave a long-lasting legacy: Baichung Bhutia

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Every pretender needed to match up to Baichung first, before he was permitted to build an identity of his own. Every pretender needed to match up to Baichung first, before he was permitted to build an identity of his own.
SummaryI knew Sunil was capable of beating my record and I am glad he actually managed it, says Bhutia.

Sunil has always mentioned about your influence in his career. How do you look at it?

It's nice of him to say so and I feel rewarded to know he feels I have made a difference in his career. I am very proud of him. I have been there with him for a major part of his achievements and most of his goals were scored when we played together. Of course, he has scored many more since but I will always cherish the moments we spent together.

He surpassed your goal-scoring record last month (in a friendly vs Nepal). You witnessed it from the stands. What were your initial thoughts?

He deserves every bit of it. I was there for the match along with 20,000 other spectators and it was an incredible feeling. I knew he was capable of beating my record and I am glad he actually managed it. After the match, I met him and I told him to score many more goals for the team. He has age on his side. He can go on to become the leading scorer by quite some distance.

So has the baton passed from the master to his disciple?

I don't see it that way. To be where he is now deserves credit and competence. Scoring goals isn’t easy and here you are talking about 42 international goals. He has carved a niche for himself. No one can take it away from him.

What is the most striking thing about him according to you?

His willingness to learn and improve as a player. The first time I saw him, he came across as a true professional. He stayed ever willing to do that extra bit and I could see him working on finer points even after practice. He always chalked out time for improvement. That separated him from the rest. He was dedicated, honest and never shied away of taking responsibilities. It came naturally to him.

How do see him as a leader?

It will always take time to earn the trust and faith of your teammates. I captained the team for close to 11 years and wasn’t a natural leader right from day one. What is achieved on the field percolates down to each and every member of the squad. Off the field, you just cannot arrive at the scene and earn trust instantly. To earn the confidence of all will always take time. As I said before, Sunil

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