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Sunil Chhetri's Retirement: Highlights of the Football Icon's Illustrious Career

Here are the biggest career highlights of the face of Indian football - Sunil Chhetri

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Football
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On Thursday, 16 May, Sunil Chhetri, the face of Indian football, announced his retirement after a remarkable career spanning over 20 years. The Indian skipper revealed that his final international appearance for India will be during the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers match against Kuwait on 6 June in Kolkata.

With a legacy that has left an indelible mark on Indian football, the 39-year-old maestro's journey has been an inspiration to millions, reshaping perceptions of the sport in the nation along the way.

Since his debut in 2005, Chhetri has amassed a multitude of accolades, including setting records for the highest number of appearances and goals scored for the nation.

Let's delve into some of the defining moments of Sunil Chhetri's illustrious career with Indian football:

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International Debut

In the video where Chhetri revealed his retirement, he reminisced about one of the most memorable moments in his national jersey—the day he made his India debut.

It was 19 June, 2005, nineteen years ago, when a 20-year-old Chhetri donned the national jersey for the first time as the Indian football team travelled to Pakistan for a three-match series. Chhetri not only debuted but also scored a goal in that game. This was perhaps the announcement of his arrival in the football landscape.

Here are the biggest career highlights of the face of Indian football - Sunil Chhetri

A 20-year-old Chhetri made his international debut against Pakistan in June 2005.

Image: X

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Staggering Numbers

Over the course of two decades, the prolific forward has amassed an impressive record, featuring in 150 matches for India and netting an astonishing 93 goals. He holds the distinction of being both the leading goal scorer and the most capped player in the history of the Blue Tigers. Notably, during the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers match against Nepal, Chhetri made history by becoming the first Indian footballer to surpass the 90-goal mark in international competitions.
Here are the biggest career highlights of the face of Indian football - Sunil Chhetri

Chhetri has featured in 150 matches for India and netting an astonishing 93 goals.

Image: Instagram/Sunil Chhetri

Moreover, Chhetri boasts an impressive club record, tallying 252 goals with an impressive scoring rate of nearly one goal per two matches played.

His illustrious career is adorned with triumphs, including titles in prestigious tournaments such as the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008, the SAFF Championship in 2011 and 2015, the Nehru Cup in 2007, 2009, and 2012, alongside consecutive victories in the Intercontinental Cup in 2017 and 2018.

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Amongst The Top 3

Here are the biggest career highlights of the face of Indian football - Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri also ranks among the top three international goal scorers globally.

Image: X

In addition to his remarkable achievements that establish him as India's most successful footballer, Chhetri also ranks among the top three international goal scorers globally.

With 94 goals in 150 matches, the Indian skipper holds the third position in the list of most international goals, trailing behind Argentine star Lionel Messi (106 goals in 180 matches) and Portugal great Cristiano Ronaldo (128 goals in 205 matches).
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2008 AFC Challenge Cup Final Hat-Trick

Here are the biggest career highlights of the face of Indian football - Sunil Chhetri

Chhetri netted a hat-trick in the final against Tajikistan in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup.

(Photo: PTI)

Sunil Chhetri's journey to national superstardom reached a pinnacle in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, where he delivered a stunning performance by scoring four pivotal goals. Particularly outstanding was his hat-trick in the final against Tajikistan. This momentous victory not only secured the trophy but also propelled the Blue Tigers to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup, marking their long-awaited return to the prestigious tournament after a 27-year absence.

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Played in 3 Continents

Chhetri holds the unique distinction of being the sole Indian footballer to have competed on three continents worldwide: Asia, Europe, and the United states of America.

His journey took him to England, where he underwent a trial with Coventry City. However, the deal fell through due to a denied work permit by the British government. Later received an offer from Queens Park Rangers in London, then competing in the English Championship. 

Chhetri's European adventure continued with Sporting Clube de Portugal in 2012, where he made five appearances for the team.

In 2010, he ventured into the United States, signing with the Kansas City Wizards in Major League Soccer. This move marked him as only the third Indian footballer, following Mohammad Saleem and Bhaichung Bhutia, to compete in a foreign league.

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Numerous Individual Honors

Here are the biggest career highlights of the face of Indian football - Sunil Chhetri

Chhetri has been named SAFF Championship Player of the Tournament in 2011, 2015 and 2021.

Chhetri's pivotal contributions to Indian football have earned him numerous prestigious awards and accolades, including:

  • AIFF Player of the Year: 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018-19.

  • FPAI Indian Player of the Year: 2009, 2018 and 2019.

  • SAFF Championship Player of the Tournament: 2011, 2015 and 2021.

  • SAFF Championship Top Scorer: 2011, 2021 and 2023.

  • Hero of the Intercontinental Cup: 2018.

It was under his leadership that India reentered the top 100 rankings in 2023 for the first time since 2018.

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National Awards

Here are the biggest career highlights of the face of Indian football - Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri receiving the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award by President Ram Nath Kovind. 

Photo:Twitter/Indian Football

In addition to the aforementioned accolades, the stalwart of Indian football has been bestowed with several other prestigious awards:

  • In 2011, he was honoured with the Arjuna Award for Football.

  • In 2019, Chhetri was conferred with the Padma Shri, India's fourth-highest civilian award.

  • In 2021, he received the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award for Football, India's highest sporting honour, recognizing his exceptional achievements and contributions to football.

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A FIFA Documentary

Recognising the Indian skipper’s exceptional skills and achievements on the field, FIFA paid tribute to Sunil Chhetri by releasing a documentary in 2022 titled "Captain Fantastic." This documentary highlights his remarkable goal-scoring prowess and illustrious career.

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Topics:  Indian Football   Sunil Chhteri 

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