"I said before we shouldn't be begging people to come and watch the national team". Sunil Chhetri, who would be making his 100th worldwide appearance for India, had posted an emotional video on Twitter on Saturday, pleading fans to "abuse us, criticize us but please come to watch the Indian national team play".
Kenya, who beat New Zealand 2-1 in the first match played on Friday, next plays Chinese Taipei in their round robin game on Friday. "This was something special", said the 33-year-old Chhetri. To all of you, who have lost hope or don't have any hope in Indian football, we request you to come and watch us at the stadiums.
On a more sobering note, however, Team India coach Stephen Constantine said that players shouldn't beg fellow Indians to attend matches. To everyone who is not a football fan, please come and watch us.More news: Driver Who Killed 4-Year-Old in 1968 Suffers Similar Fate
"But, I'm making this video not for you guys, I'm going to speak, appeal and request all of you, who did not come".
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But cricketers also came out in full support of their football counterparts.
The 9,000-odd crowd went up in unison as Chhetri scored the opening goal in the 68th minute via a penalty and then found the net in injury time. But unfortunately for India, the two strikers turned all-rounders, never turned out for the national squad at the same time, though they did play together in camps. "I feel it is important to support and encourage our athletes, be it football, hockey, badminton, tennis, wrestling, cricket".
Soon after, Chhetri won a controversial penalty as replays showed Kenyan defender Michael Kibwage bringing him down just outside the box. He has overtaken American Clint Dempsey and drew level with Spanish star David Villa on the list. Sunil Chhetri has scored 59 goals in 99 matches he played so far and became the 3 highest active goalscorer in the world only behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. With wife Sonam Bhattacharya watching from the stands, Chhetri pointed towards hugged him from all corners, then folding his hands as the fans cheered along.More news: Long wait over for Goldolphin as Masar wins Derby
India finish off their group assignments with a match against New Zealand on Thursday, with the tournament serving as part of the hosts' preparations for 2019 AFC Asian Cup.