Indian captain Sunil Chhetri says the match that stood out for him in his illustrious career was the one in which he could not feature — the goalless draw against Asian champion Qatar in a World Cup Qualifier.
On this day last year, India held the 2022 World Cup host Qatar to a creditable draw in Doha.
Chhetri, who missed the match due to fever, said he tried his best but his body did not allow him to even make it to the stadium, leaving him to watch the game on TV in his hotel room.
“I would a thousand times prefer to be on the pitch helping my team than be a spectator from outside.
“Towards the end, both sides started pushing aggressively for the go-ahead goal, even my volume levels went up and I was screaming like crazy. The tension was too much to take!” Chhetri wrote for the All India Football Federation’s official website.
India entered the match as underdogs but shocked the fancied home team with their spirited showing. And the visiting team’s best player, who is currently the second highest goal-sorer in international football among active players, missed every bit of the action.
“…At last though, the referee blew the final whistle and I was just overcome with emotions. As the boys celebrated with the fans, I was jumping for joy in my room.
“It is not every day that you hold the best side in Asia to a clean sheet in their own den — a team that scored against every other Asian opposition that year.
“Of all the matches I have been a part of over the years, this stands out right up there with the best.”
Though Chhetri has been part of a few triumphs with the national team, he feels they don’t come close to matching the draw against Qatar.
“One year on from the result, I still find it hard to recall how many times I have felt the way I felt that that night in Doha.
“I couldn’t be on the pitch with my fellow Blue Tigers but the way they played and the heart they showed, they gave me a memory to cherish for a lifetime.”