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Stop putting pressure on Sunil Chhetri and let him enjoy his game, said India coach Igor Stimac of the talismanic striker. Despite nearing 35, Chhetri remains a stalwart at the helm of the Indian attack and is still arguably the most reliable goalscorer in the country.
However, his age and a couple of easy misses in India's recent World Cup qualifiers, have intensified questions on whether India can suitably replace him once he decides to hang up his boots. Stimac said that he cannot see anyone replacing the Indian captain in the next five years.
"That is the most common question I face and I am a bit annoyed with it," on being asked about Chhetri's replacement in a Facebook Live session.
"It seems to me that everyone is pushing Sunil out of the team. We have Sunil - that happens once in two-three decades and everybody is asking when is he leaving? Guys, let him enjoy his game. Why are we putting so much pressure on him? He has got enough years left in him and is still scoring goals. He is playing good football. What do we do when he goes? As a group we have to replace him. There will be no individual player, it has to be a team affair. At this moment, I cannot see anyone replacing him even in the next five years."
Apart from the value he provides on the field, Stimac also highlighted Chhetri's importance in the dressing room.
"His influence is great for the youngsters. He shows the youngsters how not to waste time in life and he knows he could have done better if he did not waste some of his years also. He is taking care of his food and training and is doing his best to prolong his career for another three-four years. I am very happy with him in the team," he said.