x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

India football star Sunil Chhetri still holds European dream despite setbacks

But for visa problems the forward could be playing for major football club.

Sunil Chhetri, left, received praise from Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, following his stint at the Scottish Premier League side last year. Chhetri nearly played for Coventry City and Queens Park Rangers, too.
Sunil Chhetri, left, received praise from Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, following his stint at the Scottish Premier League side last year. Chhetri nearly played for Coventry City and Queens Park Rangers, too.

Sunil Chhetri, India's best player, still has hopes of playing in Europe one day, even though his first three chances have not worked out.

Chhetri's first opportunity came in May 2009 when he went to the English Championship side Coventry for trials but was not taken on.

In August of the same year, Chhetri signed a three-year contract with the then-Championship side Queens Park Rangers only to have his work permit refused. The reason: India is not in the top 70 of the Fifa ranking and the British government only permits non-EU players if their country is rated better that 70th.

Most recently, Chhetri and his national team strike partner Jeje Lalpekhlua were invited for a six-day trial with the Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers last November.

According to Chhetri, the pair played in one game during their time in Glasgow and were supposed to travel with the team to face Hamburg in a friendly match, but they were unable to go to Germany because of more visa problems.

Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, said on the club website at the time that he was happy with what he has seen from Chetri and Lalpekhlua.

"Sunil and Jeje did fine and showed up well in training," McCoist said.

"They showed some lovely touches and adapted to the different surroundings they experienced.

"They are away back home … but we will keep monitoring their situations and keep monitoring their performances back home.

"They will continue to play for their sides in India and it was great to have them both working with us as they are talented boys.

"It was a good experience for them and I think they certainly enjoyed it. They did absolutely fine."

Despite McCoist's kind words the pair headed back to India without a deal.

In the meantime Rangers have gone into administration and are currently under a transfer embargo.

But Chhetri remains hopeful that he can make the breakthrough on the European stage.

"There is nothing that I can do but to wait until the end of the I-League in May and see what happens then," he said.

amustafa@thenational.ae