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Sunil Chhetri named AIFF Player of the Year Award

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

/ Published by Simon L Infimate

 KOLKATA: Ace striker Sunil Chhetri on Tuesday was declared as the AIFF Player of the Year 2011. The latest feather in India and Mohun Bagan player's cap comes close on the heels of the Arjuna Award that he was bestowed with in August. He was also declared Man-of-the-Tournament following his brilliant show in the recently-concluded SAFF Championship that India won handsomely."I'm at a loss for words. This award indicates that I'm improving every day," said an elated Chhetri. "At a time when I have been confined to my home with a plastered leg, this is perhaps the best Christmas and New Year's present," he added. Chhetri picked up an ankle injury during the SAFF Cup, which has rendered him out of action for more than a month.

Chhetri was chosen the winner by I-League coaches who picked their favourite fro'm a short-list of four players. The criteria for selection were performance on the field, primarily in India's international matches, and general conduct, both on and off the field. East Bengal's Raju Gaikwad and Syed Rahim Nabi - who is now Chhteri's teammate at Mohun Bagan - as well as Jeje Lalpekhlua of Pune FC were also in the fray.

However, there was a departure for selecting the winner this time. In the recent past, the best player was nominated in consultation with former chief national coach Bob Houghton. But with the Englishman's departure, the AIFF made the process broad-based by involving I-League coaches. Chhetri will receive a cash award of Rs 2 lakh plus a silver salver.

Chhetri, who has played 17 international matches in this calendar year, has scored 13 goals, the highest by any Indian footballer during this period. Besides, he has scored 11 goals in 20 club appearances in the year.

Chhetri won it for the first time in 2007, on the back of his excellent performance in India's Nehru Cup triumph. IM Vijayan, who got the award in its inaugural year 1992, is the only player to have bagged it three times. "Looking back, it has been an excellent year for me. A footballer always needs to constantly keep himself motivated and look eager for the next challenge. In the entire year, the moment I finished a match, I longed for the next challenge to kick-off. That explains the year for me," Chhetri said in an interview to the AIFF.

He, however, thanked his teammates for making the year memorable for him. "Football is a team game and none can survive or excel without the help of others. I thank all my coaches, teammates, support staff and the fans. I can't just walk away with all the credit. I have learnt a lot fro'm them and it's because of them, I feel, I'm on the verge of hitting my peak form." On his injury, he said: "It's a Grade-2 ligament tear on the left ankle. The plaster would be coming off on January 5. After that, it will be two weeks of rehab before I get back."


1992: IM Vijayan; 1993: VP Sathyan; 1994: Jo Paul Ancheri; 1995: Baichung Bhutia; 1996: Bruno Coutinho; 1997: IM Vijayan; 2000: IM Vijayan; 2001: Jo Paul Ancheri; 2002: Deepak Mondal; 2003: Tomba Singh; 2004: S Venkatesh; 2005: Climax Lawrence; 2006: Surkumar Singh; 2007: Sunil Chhetri; 2008: Baichung Bhutia; 2009: Subrata Pal; 2010: Gouramangi Singh.

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