Nothing to write home from Europe
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Seven months ago, when Sporting Lisbon announced their newest acquisition, the Indian football was abuzz with excitement. India captain Sunil Chhetri had signed a year-long deal with the Portuguese giants' 'B' side that play in their second division. Chhetri was to become the first Indian player since Baichung Bhutia to ply his trade in Europe. It was a moment to be savoured.
Alas, Chhetri's European sojourn is turning out to be quite a let down. India certainly needs a player to capture the nation's attention with some decent performances in a league outside the country. Despite his best efforts, Chhetri doesn't seem to be that player.
Whether he was really given a chance to prove himself at Lisbon or he is simply not good enough to play in Europe is debatable.
But a fact remains that Indian footballers will always find it tough to match up to the technically and physically superior Europeans. Even India's best player in recent times, Bhutia, struggled to match the pace in Europe, scoring only thrice in the 36 appearances in three years with Bury FC.
So, instead of blindly chasing the European dream, wouldn't it be better if our players first tried their luck in a more competitive Asian or Australian league? As compared to India, the standard of these leagues is far better. Chhetri and Gouramangi Singh have attracted interest from Down Under. In case they had signed, they would have at least got more match time.
Chhetri's one-year contract with Lisbon ends in four months and it remains to be seen if the 28-year-old will travel to Europe next year and once again end up warming the bench. Sadly for Indian football, like his stint with Kansas City Wizards in the past, Chhetri's time with Lisbon has been neither beneficial nor memorable for him.