Chhetri, the second highest goal-getter (among current players) in international football after Cristiano Ronaldo, was among the nine sports persons to be honoured with the Padma Shri award.
File image of Sunil Chhetri. AFP
“At the moment, it’s just pure happiness. It hasn’t sunk in as yet. I need some time to feel it. I need some time to understand what the recognition actually means,” said Chhetri.
“Every person has flaws, so do I. I understand it and strive to be a better version of myself — a better human being. I feel I need to set a better example to others.
“On that perspective, I am loving that extra pressure which has come with this Padma Shri announcement.”
He became only the sixth footballer after the Late Gostho Paul, the Late Sailen Manna, PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami and Bhaichung Bhutia to be honoured with the prestigious award.
“I am aware of the aura all of them possess. It was my dad who had educated me about their exploits much before I became a professional player. Being in the same club as them is a feeling which I can’t express, it can make you nervous,” Chhetri said.
“Look at that list the late Gostho Paul, the late Sailen Manna, PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami and Bhaichung-bhai. They are all legends. To be in that same list is an honour for me. It gives me goosebumps.
“It is also a reminder to me on what I need to do, all in my effort to improve every minute as a footballer.”
Chhetri said it will motivate him to work harder as a player.
“As a player, I need to keep working hard. There’s no alternative to that. No award can make you a better player unless you strive to be one,” he said.
“But yeah, this is an added motivation for me. This Award will surely spur me on, to maybe, be the hungrier, fittest and the sharpest among all in my team.