Sunil Chhetri, the Wizard from India!

Sunil Chhetri was little more than a name on a list when he first popped up on Kansas City’s radar.

The Wizards, like most MLS teams, receive dozens of letters, video links and DVDs each month from players seeking a chance to play professional soccer. The Kansas City staff feels guilty about not giving everyone a chance, so they take a look.

Chhetri immediately caught their eye, even in the limited video clips they were able to obtain. Find a way to get him to the United States and we’ll give him a shot is what they told representatives from the Indian team. [Link]

So Chhetri was smuggled across the Mexican border and taken to the Wizards’ headquarters, where the receptionist was excited to see him: “I’m so glad you came. Windows 7 has been giving me fits.” Actually, he showed up at the Wizards’ training camp in Arizona and dazzled everyone with his feet. And his nose.

Blurry-fast feet. Nose for the goal. Connected with the other players on the attack almost instantly. Good instincts, able to adapt to the team’s style of play without thinking about it. Quick to get the ball ahead instead of holding it too long. Hits well with both feet, uses his entire body to strike it. Pretty good in the air at 5-foot-7.

Even better, Chhetri had a burning intensity to go with his talent.

“We learned he’s extremely competitive, has a desire to be successful and when you have that, you can get a lot out of a guy,” Wizards coach Peter Vermes said. “If someone has the talent and they don’t have the fire in the belly, so to speak, every day you’re struggling to get those guys going. This guy just gets it.” [Link]

A forward, Chhetri has made 35 appearances on India’s national team, scoring 16 goals, including a hat trick against Tajikistan in 2008 that propelled India to the Asia Cup and made Chhetri a household name in the entire former Soviet Republic.

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