National Football Team's captain, Sunil Chhetri is at the top of his game. But every success story, has its share of failures. In this Humans of Bombay post, he talks about those struggles.
Chhetri talks about how his parents' upbringing helped him follow his passion in life.
If I wanted to study only for 30 minutes, that was fine as long as I did it wholeheartedly. That’s the kind of environment that helped me find my interest in sports, and then make it my passion.
But a supportive environment was not the only thing that got his interest in sports, his mother did. From carrom to football, she played everything with him and made him love every kind of sport. So much so, that he played tournaments and actually got signed by a football club.
I was only 17 and had no idea that they were thinking of signing me on as a player. It was only when they called my father, gave us a contract and a cheque of Rs.90000.
He mentioned that sports gave him and his family a life that they had never thought of. But this road was quite rocky. He was subjected to harsh criticism for not winning matches and even had to deal with people cursing him and his family.
The crowd there started throwing things at us, slurring abuses and even spat on us. I was so dejected. There have been times when people have even abused me using my mother and sister’s name.
But moments like these didn't deter Chhetri's spirit. He kept going on and his hard work and determination paid off and eventually, he ended up becoming the captain of the Indian National Football Team.
I played my first international match against Pakistan when I was just 20. I remember we played so well and defeated them in their homeground! That was my ‘I’ve done it’ moment.
Chhetri's life story tells us that while reaching for the stars is a great thing, keeping yourself grounded is all it takes.
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“I remember my dad used to earn Rs.8000 a month & by the 20th things would get tough. But even though we were from a middle class family—there was no pressure on me. My parents believed that ‘whatever you do, do from your heart’. If I wanted to study only for 30 minutes, that was fine as long as I did it wholeheartedly. That environment helped me find my interest in sports then & make it my passion. The reason why I got into sports, was because of my mom. Dad was in the army so he used to travel a lot, but mom & I used to play carrom, table tennis & even football! I used to take part in a lot of football tournaments & once in a tournament the Kolkata based Mohun Bagan club noticed me. I was only 17 & had no idea that they wanted to sign me as a player. It was only when they called my dad, gave us a contract & a cheque of Rs.90000 did my life turn around! That day I took my family out for a meal & I recall telling dad ‘We can order whatever we want’. I was so grateful—sports gave me the life I wanted. But it wasn’t all glory. Once we played a match at our home ground & it ended in a draw. The crowd started throwing things at us & even spat on us. I was dejected. Sometimes people even abused me using my mom & sister’s name. Moments like that would make me want to give up. But, I also had moments that reinstilled the high of chasing success. I played my first international match against Pakistan when I was just 20. We defeated them in their homeground & that was my ‘I’ve done it’ moment. Eventually I even became the captain of Team India! I’ve had times where barely anyone has come to watch the Indian Football team play, times where I’ve gotten stitches without Anesthesia because I couldn’t sit the game out. But also times where I’ve been recognised as one of the top players globally & filled stadiums, while playing. I’ve reached these highs, only because I’ve learnt to fight my lows. Knowing where I started helps me put everything into perspective. The sacrifices my parents have made & the struggles we’ve faced—all of it has contributed to where I am today. So even though I may be reaching for the stars, my feet will always be on the ground.”