India national team skipper and talisman, Sunil Chhetri has opened up on playing for the country, revealing that it is easier for him to deal with pressure due to his experience but that for the youngsters it becomes a bit difficult.
Chhetri who missed India's recent international friendlies due to an injury is looking forward to the upcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifiers as he wants to ensure that the Blue Tigers make it back to the continental competition for a second time in a row.
The 37-year-old is without doubt the most famous Indian footballer in the world and is also the country's all-time record goalscorer with 80 goals from 125 appearances. The record six-time All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year accepted that youngsters today find it a little difficult to deal with criticism, especially due to the influence of social media.
"For me it is a bit easier than for others because I have been praised and abused so much (laughs). For the younger ones it becomes a bit difficult. Social media is huge and plays a prominent part in players’ lives. My duty is to calm them down. Others' opinion will not help you on the pitch," he said in an interview with Deccan Herald.
"One example: Not being able to score against Sri Lanka (in the SAFF Cup), there was such a bad atmosphere at the camp and we got a lot of flak, probably we deserved it. That moment I saw a lot of young ones getting really affected. That means a lot of people are watching it and they want the team to do well. That's always welcome. It's just the way life is now. You can't hide, there is a lot of interest and with that comes these kinds of pressure you have to deal with," the striker added.
The Blue Tigers have been drawn in Group D in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers along with Afghanistan, Cambodia and Hong Kong and will start their campaign against Cambodia on June 8.