Sunil Chhetri is one of the Indian footballers widely recognized as the greatest Indian player of all time. He plays for the forward and captaincy in India National team and Indian Super League club Bangalore. In the international football world, Sunil Chhetri is the sixth-highest scorer. He is also the second joint-highest goal scorer, besides Lionel Messi and beyond Cristiano Ronaldo. Nonetheless, the journey from a common Indian boy playing in a narrow street to the second-highest active goal scorer and king of Indian football has never been easier for him. Let’s find out the interesting journey of Sunil Chhetri that made him the legend he is now.
Sunil Chhetri’s early life and education
Sunil Chhetri was born on 3rd August 1984 in Secundrabad. His father’s name is KB Chhetri and his mother Sushila Chhetri. Sunil Chhetri’s father is a retired officer who used to serve in the EME Corps of the Indian Army. His mother was an athlete too and played for the Nepal Woman’s National team with her twin sister. Sunil completed his schooling at Bahai School in Sikkim and graduated from Kolkata’s Asutosh College. He has a sister named Bandana Chhetri.
Sunil Chhetri became the first footballer to receive the Major Dhyan Chand Award
The Indian men’s national football team captain received the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award on November 13, 2021, by the honourable President of India. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports had mentioned Sunil Chhetri’s name earlier and recommended his name for his contributions to the Indian football team at the national and international levels.
Sunil Chhetri is the first footballer in India who had been awarded such a prestigious award. Since his early days in football, Sunil Chhetri have made many remarkable records. It earned him the country’s most prestigious awards in the sports field. On winning, Chhetri said, “I am thrilled, I am really thankful and honoured. I have always said that it is a dream that I have gone through, and it would not have been possible without my family, teammates and coaches I have played under,”.
Sunil Chhetri’s early career in football from Mohun Bagan Club
Mohun Bagan Athletic Club is one of the oldest clubs in Asia that was established in 1889 when India was up in conflicts against then colonial rulers of Britain. Chhetri’s professional career in football started with Mohun Bagan after playing with the City Football Club of New Delhi. When his first season was completed in the club, Sunil Chhetri had already scored four goals for his team and secured the seventh position in the table. The next season was a little underplayed one and he could score only two goals. All the later seasons Sunil Chhetri played while in Mohun Bagan Club, he tried to maintain a good position in the team and scored goals due to his good attacking tendency.
Sunil Chhetri in Jagatjit Cotton & Textile Football Club (JCT)
After playing for the Mohun Bagan Club, Sunil Chhetri signed for JCT in 2005 to play in the 2005-2006 season. He scored three goals in the first and eleven in the next season when the club secured the second position after Dempo. He played many games for the JCT and outperformed most of them. Overall, he scored 21 goals in 48 matches for this Punjab based team.
Sunil Chhetri time in East Bengal
Sunil Chhetri signed with the I-League of East Bengal after playing for the JCT and won his debut match played against Chirag United in 2008. After the match, he went to score a remarkable goal for the East Bengal against his former team i.e., JCT which helped East Bengal secure a position in the semi-finals. The East Bengal played against another Chhetri’s former team Mohun Bagan where he missed a penalty shootout. This made East Bengal officially knocked out of the season.
Sunil Chhetri and Kansas City Wizards
Chhetri was on probation with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer in March 2010, and he had participated in several of their pre-season games. Sunil scored Eleven goals in five preseason games, impressing everyone with his capabilities. On March 24, 2010, he was officially signed by the team, making him only the third Indian player to play beyond South Asia and the very first Indian to play in the MLS.
Sunil Chhetri’s game against Manchester United
Sunil Chhetri played against Manchester United, one of the most renowned football teams worldwide. He was selected as a substitute in the game and got to play. Even though he couldn’t make the net bloat, he had a handful of strong chances at goal, and the Kansas City Wizards finally won the game 2-1 against Manchester United. Sunil’s time with the MLS team, on the other hand, may best be described as unlucky, since he had to cut short his stay due to a call to National Duty. Sunil had no choice but to attend the National Camp for the Asian Cup, which was to be held in 2011. As a result, another great chance was squandered, and Sunil was forced to return to Indian soil.
Important International records held by Sunil Chhetri
- With 47 goals, Sunil Chhetri is the all-time leading Indian goal scorer in the Indian Super League (ISL) and the league’s second-best goal scorer overall.
- Sunil Chhetri has the most hat-tricks of any Indian player in the Indian Super League (ISL). His first hat-trick came against Northeast United in 2015, and his second came against FC Pune City during the 2017-18 season while playing for Bengaluru FC.
- Sunil Chhetri is the first Indian player to have represented Asia, Europe’s Sporting Club de Portugal, and North America’s Kansas City Wizards on three continents.
- Sunil Chhetri has the most goals by an Indian player in the AFC Cup and AFC Champions qualifications, with 19 goals. For Churchill Brothers and Bengaluru FC, he has played in 31 AFC Cup matches and two AFC Champions League (ACL) qualifying games.
- With 74 goals in 117 international appearances, Sunil Chhetri holds the record for most goals scored by an Indian player in international football.
- After Cristiano Ronaldo, the Indian striker is the world’s second-highest active goal scorer.
- Sunil Chhetri became the first Indian player in the Indian Super League to score a hat-trick (ISL). In 2015, while playing for Mumbai City FC, he achieved the feat. His first hat-trick in the ISL game against Northeast United in a 5-1 victory for the Islanders.
- Sunil Chhetri has 90 goals in the National Football League (NFL)/I-League, making him the all-time leading Indian goal scorer. JCT, Mohun Bagan, Dempo, United Sports Club, and Bengaluru FC are among the strikers he has represented. Bhai Chung Bhutia, with 89 goals, is India’s second-highest goal scorer.
- Sunil Chhetri has scored three hat-tricks in international football, in addition to having the most international caps and goals.
- Sunil Chhetri has won the Player of the Year Award more times than any other player since the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) began awarding it in 1992. Six times has the Bengaluru FC star won the honour.
- The Indian football team’s captain has also played in the most international matches, with 117 to his credit. With 107 caps, former Indian football captain Bhai Chung Bhutia is a close second to Chhetri.