Sunil Chhetri, the Indian Football Skipper, ranks among one of the most decorated players in the history of Indian sports. Sunil Chhetri is the only Indian to be featured among the Top 10 highest international goal scorers since making his debut for India U-20 against Pakistan in 2004.
Not only has he accomplished the most goals, but he has also attempted to enhance the image of football in India. Over his stellar career, he has scored over 80 goals and guided the Indian team to multiple tournament victories.
At 38, “Captain Fantastic” is likely nearing the endgame of his distinguished career. In this article, we shall discover why Sunil Chhetri is regarded as the pinnacle of Indian football.
Chhetri is the world’s third-highest active goalscorer
Sunil Chhetri is the world’s third-highest goalscorer among active players, after only global legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He is ranked fifth on the all-time list, with 84 goals. He is also the all-time leading goalscorer in India, having scored the most goals in the Indian Super League.
The only football player to win the Khel Ratna Award
Sunil Chhetri received the highest athletic honour in India, the Khel Ratna Award, from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in 2021. He was the first football player in history to obtain this prestigious accolade. He was honoured alongside well-known sports figures such as Neeraj Chopra and Mithali Raj.
India’s most-capped footballer
Chhetri has become India’s most-capped football player since his debut against Pakistan in 2004. He has registered 131 appearances in his career, which spanned more than 17 years.
Won “AIFF Player of the Year” 7 times
Sunil Chhetri has set a record for the most AIFF Player of the Year accolades earned by an Indian footballer. He has received the prize seven times: in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2019, and 2022. M. Vijayan won it thrice, and Baichung Bhutia and Jo Paul Ancheri won twice.
Football runs in his veins!
Remarkably, Sunil Chhetri was raised with a passion for football, as both his mother and father were football players in Nepal and the Army, respectively. Sunil Chhetri’s mother was a member of Nepal’s national squad. Because of his family’s passion for football, Chhetri has stated that incorporating sports into his life was the most natural process!
The cultural icon of Asia.
Sunil Chhetri was named an “Asian Icon” by the Asian Football Federation, the continent’s governing body of football, on his 34th birthday in 2018. In the era of Ronaldo and Messi, the AFC stated that being the third-highest-scoring football player was no small feat.