Sunil Chhetri, captain of the Indian football team, has become a household name in India. A football star and role model for the future of this game in India. His iconic rise in the sporting arena has made him a force to reckon with.
An Indian professional footballer who plays as a striker for Indian club Bengaluru FC and the Indian national team, he is the most-capped player and all-time top goal scorer for the Indian national team.
With a score of 61 goals to his credit, Sunil is now only behind legends Ronaldo and Messi in terms of number of goals scored in international matches. Apart from this, he is the only Indian player to have played 100 international matches.
As the captain of the Indian team, Sunil Chhetri has done for football what very few have done so far.
Born on the 3rd of August 1984 in Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, Sunil has football in his genes. His father played for the Indian Army’s team while his mother and her twin sister played for the Nepal women’s national team. Naturally, his initiation into the game started early. From a young age, he started taking part in various tournaments.
Football career –
Chhetri began his professional career at Mohun Bagan in 2002, post which he moved to club JCT. He played for the national team for the first time on June 12, 2005, against Pakistan.
His performance helped him get signed for the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer in 2010, becoming the third player from the subcontinent to go abroad. However, that stint in the United States did not last long and he soon came back to India, where he played for Chirag United and Mohun Bagan.
He went back abroad to briefly play with Sporting Clube de Portugal of the Primeira Liga where he played for the club’s reserve side.
His winning streak for India is a huge list. He helped India win the 2007 Nehru Cup, 2009 Nehru Cup, the 2012 Nehru Cup as well as the 2011 SAFF Championship. He was also one of India’s best players during the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup in which India won the tournament and qualified for their first AFC Asian Cup in 27 years. Chhetri has also been named AIFF Player of the Year four times in 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2014.
Peter Vermes, the head coach of the Wizards, described Sunil as a ‘crafty player who was ‘technically very sharp and had good attacking tendencies.’
Currently, Chhetri plays with Bengaluru FC.
International Records –
With 61 goals, Chhetri is third in international ranking. Ronaldo (81 goals) and Messi (64 goals) are number 1 and 2 respectively.
He is the only Indian player to have played in 100 international matches, which he completed on the 4th of June 2018 while playing in the Intercontinental Cup match in Mumbai.
Chhetri is married to his long-time girlfriend Sonam Bhattacharya, who is the daughter of Mohun Bagan legend Subrata Bhattacharya. She runs two hotels in Kolkata’s Salt Lake area and is a business management graduate from Scotland.