Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri is excited to play the AFC Cup under new coach Marco Pezzaiuoli and rectify the mistakes from a ‘horrible’ Indian Super League season.
Chhetri, speaking to reporters ahead of the second round of AFC Cup preliminary stage match against Nepal club Tribhuvan Army FC, said he is treading cautiously.
“We watched the Tribhuvan team beat the Sri Lankan team (SL Police FC) and they played quite well. You can see their unity. and it’s not going to be easy. Also, it’s more about grasping what the coach wants from us, and we are going to take one game at a time," Chhetri said.
Bengaluru FC had their worst domestic season as they finished seventh in the 2020-21 ISL season, Chhetri believes the way from here is up.
“I expect a reaction from the whole team. When you lose a game, you start pointing fingers at each other, but the thing is, we were so bad, and every one of us were so bad that there’s no pointing fingers at anyone," he said.
“I might be biased, but apart from Cleiton [Silva], Suresh [Singh], and a few young ones, we all were bad. Like proper bad. There is no scope for me to say, ‘Udanta, you were bad’, because he would say, ‘Chhetri bhai, you were equally bad’," he added.
Chhetri had contracted Covid-19 that ruled him out of the international friendlies against Oman and the UAE.
“You can feel the aftereffects (of Covid-19). You really have to be careful and start slowly," Chhetri said.
Chhetri said the new coach has had a positive impact on the team and the youngsters are enjoying training.
“A new manager has no prejudice. There is no previous baggage of what one can do and one cannot. He will see whatever he sees in training and make up his mind. Everyone knows this, including the seniors, foreigners, Indians. Also, the fact that we were horrible last year, to say the least, gives added motivation to every one of us to perform.”
Chhetri also stressed on the importance for the BFC youngsters to not carry the scars into the new tournament.
“We try and talk to them. What happened was not the ideal way to bring in junior players. The best way is to be winning and you bring in one or two of them. That is the way that works best, world over. Last year a lot of them were pushed into the team because of a variety of reasons,” he said.
“In the past they too hadn’t seen BFC lose that many games. And when we lost, they took a lot of pressure on themselves. So, we did our best to tell them that it was not them and that all of them did better than what was expected. That helped because we don’t want youngsters thinking ‘the club won so many trophies and when we started playing [things went bad].’ That can be detrimental to their progress.
“The new coach has made it clear that he trusts the youngsters and sees a lot of potential. So, they are now freer and the good thing about youngsters is that they don’t dwell on things a lot. More they push the better for the team,” he added.