Domestic Leagues

Tough conditions not an issue as Bengaluru's Chhetri gets set for ISL season

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri is focused on the positives as the India talisman prepares for the 2020-21 Indian Super League, which is scheduled to begin in two weeks.

As India continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the ISL will be held behind closed doors in a centralised Goa bubble, but the 36-year-old veteran is positive despite the challenges ahead.

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“(Challenges are) many. Not being able to play at Kanteerava stadium... Our fans travelled for away games, so not having them will be a big miss,” said Chhetri in an interview with Deccan Herald.

“Staying in a bubble is not easy, but needed. After experiencing the bubble for a couple of weeks, there were some murmurs in the dressing room but I told them it’s a small price to pay. Where there are so many people struggling to do fundamental things, it’s a huge benefit that we get to do what we love.

“I know it will be more difficult as time passes on and if the Indian boys are listening from other teams also, please be sensible and stay resilient.”

Preparation for the upcoming season began last month in the city of Ballari, and as the team end their quarantine period in Goa, they are making up for the lost time.

“It would have been conducive if we had a couple of more weeks (to train). We are working hard, first of all, to avoid injuries because in about 16 days we will start our season and we haven’t had a full training session with everyone.”

Chhetri, however, believes the squad is in a good position, with little to no change in the roster that has kept a certain familiarity and stability as Bengaluru vie for a second ISL title in three years.

“(Retaining the squad) is an advantage. We have been doing well for the last 3-4 years. We have the same players and coach."

“Injuries are a concern, we also have a virus to deal with. So the onus is on us to stay fit and available for selection. The squad will be more important than ever.

“I was happily surprised when I saw them in testing. Ashique Kuruniyan and Leon Augustine have been in excellent physical form. Suresh and Udanta look sharp, the B teams boys look hungry.”

Bengaluru will open their campaign against FC Goa at the Fatorda Stadium on November 22.

Photo: Bengaluru FC

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