Why Indian Football will never be the same without Sunil Chhetri

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Sunil Chhetri

Indian football icon Sunil Chhetri recently revealed his decision to retire from international football after the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier against Kuwait on June 6. With a remarkable two-decade career, Chhetri leaves behind a legacy that will inspire generations.

Chhetri’s journey began in the streets of Secunderabad, where his love for football ignited. From there, he climbed the ranks, donning the Indian jersey with pride. His 150th appearance for India came in March, marked by a goal against Afghanistan in Guwahati.

Chhetri’s 94 international goals make him India’s all-time top scorer. His lethal finishing and dedication to the game set him apart. He stands third among active players in terms of goals, trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

From Local Fields to Global Goals

Sunil Chhetri’s football journey began in 2002 when he joined Mohun Bagan, a prominent club in India. His talent quickly caught attention, and he soon became a permanent fixture in the Indian football scene. Here are the key milestones:

  1. Mohun Bagan: Chhetri’s professional debut was with Mohun Bagan, where he scored crucial goals during his first season.
  2. JCT Mills: He then moved to JCT Mills Football Club, showcasing his goal-scoring abilities and leadership.
  3. International Stardom: Chhetri’s impact extended beyond domestic leagues. He captained the Indian national team, becoming their all-time top scorer with 94 international goals.
  4. AFC Challenge Cup Triumph: In 2008, Chhetri led India to victory in the AFC Challenge Cup, securing their first AFC Asian Cup qualification in 27 years.
  5. Club Success: Whether playing for Bengaluru FC or Mumbai City, Chhetri consistently delivered on the field.
  6. Legacy: His legacy isn’t just about goals; it’s a narrative of breaking barriers, inspiring a nation, and leaving an enduring mark in Indian sports history.

Sunil Chhetri’s Last Dance

As India faces Kuwait in Kolkata, Chhetri’s emotions run high. The pressure to secure three points for qualification is immense, yet he approaches it with a mix of nostalgia and determination. This match will be his last in the national jersey, closing a chapter filled with duty, pressure, and immense joy.

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