The last time Sunil Chhetri graced a Bengaluru FC pre-match media briefing at home was way back in October 2022, ahead of the Indian Super League season-opener alongside the then new manager Simon Grayson.
It took another head coach introduction for the talisman to be there again, this time next to Gerard Zaragoza, who is hoping to steer a new course for the crisis-ridden club — which is ninth out of 12 teams this season — after the departure of Grayson.
Having arrived a good 15 minutes early at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Friday, Chhetri joked around with those present. He said in jest that even his three-month-old son knew how badly the side was playing, for the baby started crying immediately on Chhetri’s return after the defeat to Chennaiyin FC.
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Mid-conference, the 39-year-old quipped that Zaragoza might have a full squad to train even during the break for the Asian Cup in January because, on current form, none of the BFC players will make it to the Indian party for Qatar.
But deep down, he was hurting. For nearly eight years since BFC’s inception (2013), there had only been three full-time head coaches. In less than three years from February 2021, Zaragoza is the franchise’s third. Between the crest and the trough, Chhetri has been a constant, and he expressed a strong desire to ride the high wave again.
“We are desperately waiting for stability,” he said, ahead of the tie against Jamshedpur FC. “This is the start of a new era and I genuinely hope that we get that stability. It has reached a point where it hurts. It’s me feeling as a guy who has been here from the first day. But the best part is only we can rectify it. As players, we will do everything so that our new boss gets all the help.”
In the aftermath of the chastening 0-4 defeat to Mumbai City FC last Friday, Grayson had remarked that he hadn’t seen any “vocal leaders in the group.” Chhetri didn’t quite agree.
“We’re just not up to the mark. We’re talking about Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, about Javi [Hernandez], about me, about Suresh [Wangjam] also now. Three of us play for the National team in the first XI.
“It’s just that we are not in sync. And that’s why the youngsters are struggling. I don’t think it is the lack of not having leaders, but we leaders not performing.
“Individually, we are picking games not to be good at. In some games, it’s me; some Suresh, [Namgyal] Bhutia, Harsh [Patre] etc. And with every loss, the confidence level is going down. So [as the coach says] it is about making sure that the mentality is right. The football will fall [into place].
Source website: www.thehindu.com