Rangers stint has made me more confident: Chhetri

He is on a goal-scoring spree, an achievement which has earned him the Arjuna Award. Team India Sunil Chhetri took time out to speak about SAFF football, the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup and his stint with Scottish giants Rangers to AIFF.  Excerpts:

How do summarize the year 2011 for you?
It has been a good year for me – quite a happening one. Besides me joining Mohun Bagan — the club from where I first started my journey from, I also some good goals for my country. The Arjuna was a huge honour for me. It has only inspired me to play better. I intend to carry all to 2012.

What’s your take on the Indian challenge in the AFC Challenge Cup to be held in March 2012?
Given the fact that we qualified for the last edition of the Asian Cup, it’s an important tournament. I’m quite optimistic about our chances. I hope we get enough time to prepare ourselves for the same. If we qualify again, we would surely improve as a team.

For the last few matches you have paired with Jeje Lalpekhlua upfront. How do you see the partnership going?
Jeje is a great talent. He has really come up of the ranks and quite fast. After Bhaichung left there was a huge space but he lives upto expectations. He is a wonderful player and has a great sense of football and uses his body to his advantage. He has a many more years ahead for him to play for India.

How was your stint with Rangers. How much confident are you after the stint?
I am happy that I got a chance to go to the Rangers. We couldn’t train much with the main team as they had their matches. The Coach stayed a bit busy and we couldn’t spend much time with him. But it was a great experience – there were quality footballers all around and it was a learning experience for me. I’m a more confident player now.

What are your thoughts on the Bhutan match?
It’s a much-win match for us. We shouldn’t have split points with Afghanistan. There’s no room for any more slip-ups.

The general notion stays that football in the SAFF region isn’t that tough. What’s your take?
It’s just a notion, not the reality. Football in this region has improved leaps and bounds and there’s very little difference between the teams. I take this tournament as stepping stone for us for the other higher ranked tournaments.