Sunil Chhetri, who contracted the coronavirus last month, is gradually regaining fitness as Bengaluru FC prepares for its AFC Cup Preliminary Stage Two match against Nepalese side Tribhuvan Army FC on April 14 in Goa. Read more about why Sunil Chhetri redeems BFC below.
Sunil Chhetri’s first few days after testing positive for COVID-19 were the worst of his life. A month later, Chhetri is gradually returning to full fitness, even as Bengaluru FC (BFC) prepares for the 2021 AFC Cup Preliminary Stage Two match against Nepalese side Tribhuvan Army FC in April 14 in Goa.
Last season, Chhetri’s Bengaluru FC had their worst domestic season since their inception, finishing seventh in the Indian Super League with just 22 points in 20 games, nine points shy of the playoff places, and 18 points off the top. Long-time coach Carles Cuadrat was fired in the middle of the season, and the performances were as flat as the ratings.
There is only one way to go for Chhetri. And it all begins with the AFC Cup.
On April 14, they will face Nepal Police, and if they win, they will face the champions of Abahani Limited Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Club Eagles (Maldives). If they win, they will advance to the AFC Cup 2021 group stages.
“I suffered a lot the first five days,” he says. “I’ve never felt such physical pain in my life. It was excruciating. You believe you will be fine… Nothing can happen to you because you are a fit person….but I struggled.”
“You can’t offer a percentage and you don’t know if you’re falling behind. It is an operation, and you must be cautious,” the India and BFC captain adds.
“I’m expecting a response,” says Sunil Chhetri
“I’m expecting a reaction. I am the senior member, the captain, and I expect that of myself. When you lose a game, you will begin pointing fingers at each other. The nice thing about last season was that we were all so awful… each one of us was so bad that there were no pointing fingers. Except for Cleiton [Silva], Suresh [Wangjam], and a few young men, we were truly bad.”
The match will usher in a new era for BFC, led by head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli. Chhetri anticipates an answer to BFC’s catastrophic 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) season, in which the club finished seventh out of 11 teams, and its then-manager Carles Cuadrat was sacked.
BFC is only in the tournament because of a one-of-a-kind incident. The team that was supposed to go, 2019-20 ISL champions (and league stage runners-up) ATK, teamed up with Mohun Bagan (who advanced to the AFC Cup group stages as I-League champion) last season to leave a spot available. Which was won by BFC in the third position.
Chhetri’s third-place finish is a distant memory. The wounds from last season are still raw.
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