Sunil Chhetri, the legend, the captain, the goal scoring machine, who shaped the Indian football world.
The Legend, the Captain, the Indian Goal scoring machine, Sunil Chhetri is an icon in Football arena. Not only Indian football lovers but he is known on a world stage for his achievements he has accomplished in the sport. On Sep 2021, FIFA made a 3-episode documentary on the Indian legend and have shown the world how big a star Sunil Chhetri is.
“In the era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, to be the third highest scoring international footballer in the world is no mean feat, and for an Asian player to be within one goal of Messi’s 65 goals for a national team is a record our latest inductee to the ‘Asian Icons’ list should be proud of,” AFC wrote in its statement recently.
He is followed and respected by the entire nation. His style, discipline, charisma and modesty had made many people fall for the beautiful sport. He always wanted, and he worked hard to bring Indian football to top level; that’s why he is known as the Captain Fantastic.
His popularity can be measured by people turning to watch football matches just after his appeal on social media to bring people to stands. A nation where football grounds are mostly empty even during the big matches, people came in huge numbers to watch India’s football match after Chhetri’s request. and ofcourse he didn’t disappiont with his amazing play.
Professional Club Career
Sunil started his professional footballing career with Mohan Bagan in 2002. He played 3 seasons for them from 2002 to 2005. His sporting career took a leap when he joined JCT in 2006. He then scored many scored crucial goals for club and country and was awarded AIFF Player of the Year in 2007. After that Sunil played for East Bengal, Dempo, Mumbai City FC and Bangaluru FC. He has delivered many memorable performances with these clubs and helped achieve many titles.
Sunil is the first player to make 200 appearances for Bangluru FC, and has scored more than 100 goals for the club. He is all time highest goal scorer in I-League followed by another great Baichung Bhutia. He has also scored the most Hattricks by an Indian player in ISL. Chhetri is the only player to win All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year award a record seven times – in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2019 and 2022. No other player has won it more than thrice.
On March 24, 2010, Chhetri signed Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer (MLS), becoming the first Indian to play in MLS and the third to play outside Asia. And one of the most memorable moments came on March 24th, 2010, when Chhetri played for Kansas city team against Manchester United, where the former won 2-1. He also once signed a 3-year contract with Queen’s Park Rangers. But the UK government disallowed the deal to go through as India wasn’t in the top 70 in the FIFA rankings.
As Indian footballing Legend
We just don’t call him Captain Fantastic for nothing. The records and achievements that he has are absolutely legendary. In 2004, he made is debut in tricolors for U-20 team. in 2007, he made his senior team debut with a bang, scoring 2 and assisting 1 crucial goal against Cambodia in Nehru Cup.
He played a great part in qualifying India for their first Asia Cup in 24 years. In Finals of 2008 Asian Challenge Cup, Chhetri scored a mind blowing hattrick against Tajikistan in the finals. Chettri is the only Indian to score 3 international hattricks. Chhetri was given the responsibility of the National team in 2012 and since then he took the team to newer heights with every passing year.
When it comes to records, he tops every list in India. He is the most capped Indian player, and also the highest goal scorer of all times. On 10 June 2018, he became the joint second active international goal scorer along with Lionel Messi; and just behind Cristiano Ronaldo.
This made people from other leagues around the world notice him. The 38 year legend has captained India for almost a decade now, and made India reach many milestones. He has been a club hero as well and helped Bangaluru FC win their first I-league title. His passion and dedication have made him the most popular star Indian football has ever had.
The Indian footballing great has made records overseas as well. He became the only Indian player to play in 3 different continents i.e. Asia, Europe (Sporting Clube de Portugal) and North America (Kansas City Wizards). in 2018 he was conferred with the title of ‘Asian Icon’ by Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Sunil Chhetri’s Individual Honours and Achievements
- AIFF Player of the Year: In the years 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018–19
- FPAI Indian Player of the Year: 2009, 2018
- AFC Challenge Cup Most Valuable Player: 2008
- SAFF Championship Player of the Tournament: 2011
- Hero of the I-League: 2016–17
- Hero of the Indian Super League: 2017–18
- AFC Asian Icon: 3 August 2018
- Hero of the Intercontinental Cup: 2018
- Football Ratna Award (first recipient) by Delhi Football Association: 18 February 2019
Presented by the Indian government:
- Arjuna Award, by the Government of India (2011)
- Padma Shri recipient (2019)
- Khel Ratna Award (2021)
- AFC Cup All-time XI (The Strikers): Inductee (2021)
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Himanshu is an author at Footbalytics. He is a sports freak and Football is his first love. He is a National level football player himself. With the world full of Messi’s, Ronaldo’s and Gerrard’s fans, he is a die hard fan of Iker Casillas.
Though he is a Sales Manager by profession, he would never miss playing football with his mates.