Chettri three goals away from Bhutia's record

Kathmandu, Aug 28 (IANS) India football captain and lead striker Sunil Chettri is staring at a chance to become the country's highest international goalscorer as the SAFF Championship kicks-off here Sunday.

Chettri is currently at par with I.M. Vijayan on 40 while Bhaichung Bhutia stays at the top with 42.

"The fact of the matter stays that had I thought of it, I would have never reached here. If you do so your target becomes narrow. We have come into the SAFF Championship as a team and we want to do good as a team. Everyone has a specific role in the team. It's not that someone who scores is superior to the other," said Chettri.

For Chettri, goals are just numbers.

"Absolutely! Unless goals win you matches they don't matter at all. And as long as the Team wins it simply doesn't matter as to who has scored them," he said.

Chettri said it is a different feeling since he has high regards for both Vijayan and Bhutia.

"I wasn't that fortunate enough to play alongside I.M. Vijayan. But I have been fortunate enough to have watched many of his matches and he is undoubtedly one of the most gifted players India has ever had.

"But at the same time I have been fortunate enough to have played alongside Bhaichung-bhai and I owe a lot to him. He has been a great mentor to me with his teachings both on and off the field. He has helped me a lot to evolve both as a player," he said.

Chettri, however, has a better strike rate than both Vijayan and Bhutia.

Vijayan has 40 goals from 79 matches while Bhaichung's 42 goals came from 107 matches. Chettri is on 40 from 74 matches.

"I was lucky enough to have played a part in a team where I was used to get a lot of balls. Not every striker gets a supply line boasting of Climax Lawrence, Renedy Singh, Steven Dias, Anthony Pereira to name a few. Their sole motive was just to feed me and they fed me with great balls. It's not everyday that that you get to play with such a team. It was all teamwork - they looked forward for me to score and helped me at every step," he said.

India's top-five goalscorers:

Bhaichung Bhutia: 42 goals from 107 matches

I.M. Vijayan: 40 goals from 79 matches

Sunil Chhetri: 40 goals from 73 matches

Shabbir Ali: 23 goals from 72 matches

P.K. Banerjee: 19 goals from 36 matches

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