NEW DELHI, June 8: Sunil Chhetri is already one of the greats of Indian football but when he first appeared for a trial at the iconic Mohun Bagan, its coach Subrata Bhattacharya saw only �hints of promise� in the diminutive striker who �would not be able to score goals�.
Just after clearing his class 12 examination, Chhetri was called for a trial with the top Kolkata club in 2002. He was just 17 then. He had earlier said that he was shocked when he was offered a three-year deal by Mohun Bagan, his first professional contract.
�It was a fateful morning some 17 years ago when I walked into the Mohun Bagan ground where a bunch of young players had gathered for club trials. It was a common feature as the club always wanted to catch them young.
�And from a distance when I looked at them, the gathered lot seemed no different from the so many trials that I had attended as a coach,� Bhattacharya said. He did not see anything special in Chhetri back then.
�When you are assessing young footballers � perhaps once in a lifetime, a player would come along to lift your heart. I probably did not feel that way that morning. But what I did see were two teenagers who showed hints of promise, and loads of desire, and ambition. Those two kids were Sunil Chhetri and Subrata Paul,� Bhattacharya wrote on the All India Football Federation website.
The 67-year-old, a towering former India and Mohun Bagan defender, said Chhetri did show traits that could make him a top striker but had reservations about his goal-scoring abilities.
�He (Chhetri) had good pace, and his shooting was more than decent. What really struck me was the desire he showed. At first sight, from the perspective of a tall defender like myself, his diminutive figure did not evoke any thoughts that he would be able to get on the goal.
�But he showed an excellent reading of the game. He made runs off the ball, barking at his team-mates to pass the ball. He was just five-foot-seven, but whenever there was a set-piece, he would stick himself right into the towering defenders.� � PTI