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A look at Sunil Chhetri's illustrious career

News Agencies | Updated on: 16 May 2024, 13:23 IST
Sunil Chhetri

New Delhi: As Sunil Chhetri gets closer to his final dance on the international circuit for the Indian football team, a look at his career which has been nothing short of a fairytale story that most players dream of living.

Chhetri is not just a football star but a player who inspired the next generation by setting himself as an example of what one can achieve with hard work.

He announced his retirement from international football on Thursday and will appear for one last time donning the colour blue in front of the home fans at the Salt Lake Stadium on June 6 against Kuwait.

The story of Chhetri started 19 years ago in the national capital when he represented City Club Delhi from 2001-02.

In his decorated career, India's former ace striker Bhaichung Bhutia passed the baton to him and chose Chhetri to lead the national football team.

Chhetri featured at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup and was first named the national team captain at the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers and led India to yet another Nehru Cup trophy in 2012. He won the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008 with India.

He helped India establish itself as a dominant force in South Asian football with SAFF Championship title wins in 2011, 2015, 2021 and 2023. Chhetri has starred and won three Nehru Cup titles with India in 2007, 2009 and 2012.

He has been a part of two Indian teams which won the Intercontinental Cup in 2018 and 2023. Chhetri also led India to the Tri-Nations Cup in 2023.

Chhetri has won the prestigious All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year title a total of seven times in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons. He has also won the FPAI Indian Player of the Year award in 2009, 2018 and 2019. 

Chhetri also won two big Government of India sporting honours, the Arjuna Award in 2011 and the Khel Ratna Award, the country's biggest sporting honour in 2021.

It was under his leadership India entered the top 100 rankings for the first time in 2023 since 2018. After taking the initial steps in his career, Chhetri made his debut as a professional for Mohun Bagan in 2002.

He stayed with one of the most decorated clubs in the history of Indian football till 2005, netting eight goals in 18 matches.

He travelled across India and featured for JCT (2005-08), East Bengal (2008-09), Dempo (2009-10), Chirag United (2011), Mohun Bagan (2011-12), Churchill Brothers (2013 on loan) and Bengaluru (2013-15, 2016-present). His career wasn't just limited to Indian soil, he boarded the plane to have stints abroad with USA's Major League Soccer club Kansas City Wizards (2010) and Portugal club Sporting CP (2012-13).

These stints refined his game and turned him into a more well-rounded striker. Overall, the captain fantastic has scored 158 goals in 365 club appearances throughout his two-decade career.

He made his senior-level debut for India in June 2005 against arch-rivals Pakistan and found the back of the net on his debut. Chhetri has scored 94 goals in 150 international matches for India, making him the fourth-highest scorer across all of international football.

Among the active players, he is only behind stars like Lionel Messi or Argentina (106 goals in 180 matches) and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (128 goals in 205 matches). In his club career, Chhetri has won many accolades. With Dempo, he won the I League 2009-10, followed by a win with Churchill Brothers in the 2012-13 season.

The majority of Chhetri's accomplishments have come with Bengaluru FC which includes I League (2013-14, 2015-16), Indian Super League (2018-19), Federation Cup (2014-15, 2016-17), Super Cup (2018) and Durand Cup (2022).


First published: 16 May 2024, 13:23 IST