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A tribute to a legend: 5 crowning moments in Sunil Chhetri's career

As the India and Bengaluru FC legend retires from international football, let us take a look at the moments in his career that had all of us swelling with pride for him.
Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 13:50 IST
Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 13:50 IST

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Sunil Chhetri is one of the the greatest footballers to play for India. His achievements at the club level and for the country are beyond compare.

Not only has the Indian ace broken countless records and won every trophy in Indian football, his work to garner support for Indian football is one of the biggest reasons for the younger generations are taking more of an interest in the sport.

As the India and Bengaluru FC legend retires from international football, let us take a look at the moments in his career that had all of us swelling with pride for him.

Scoring a hat-trick in the AFC Challenge Cup final

A young Sunil Chhetri blowing a kiss, with Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia behind him.

A young Sunil Chhetri blowing a kiss, with Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia behind him.

Credit: Facebook/ Indian Football Team

While Chhetri was a known name in football circuit of Asia in 2008, it was his hat-trick in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup that really established him as the next big thing in Indian Football after Bhaichung Bhutia. His goals helped India win the tournament for the first time since 1984.

Leading BFC to become the first Indian club to reach the finals of AFC club tournament

Sunil Chhetri celebrating a goal during Bengaluru FC's run to the finals of the 2016 AFC Cup.

Sunil Chhetri celebrating a goal during Bengaluru FC's run to the finals of the 2016 AFC Cup.

Credit: X/@AFCCup

From its inception, Bengaluru FC's crown jewel has been their captain Sunil Chhetri. Under his captaincy, they have won everything in Indian football.

However, the biggest achievement for him in the BFC colours would likely be leading them to the finals of the 2016 AFC Cup, becoming the first Indian club to reach the finals of a major AFC club tournament, a feat that still has not been achieved by another Indian club.

Becoming the first footballer to win the Khel Ratna

Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri receiving the Khel Ratna award from the then President Ram Nath Kovind.

Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri receiving the Khel Ratna award from the then President Ram Nath Kovind.

Credit: PTI Photo

The ace striker is one of the few Indian footballers who have won the Padma Shri and has also been conferred with the Arjuna Award.

But on November 3, 2021, Chhetri became the first Indian footballer to win the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award, the highest honour for a sportsperson in the country, adding another grand feather to an already impressive cap.

Getting a documentary made about his Indian team captaincy by FIFA

A snap of Sunil Chhetri from the documentary.

A snap of Sunil Chhetri from the documentary.

Credit: plus.fifa.com

The Indian football team is not something that the country can really boast about, have never played in the FIFA World Cup, and almost always languishing in the bottom half of FIFA's rankings.

Thus, it is a testament to Chhetri's leadership and commitment to Indian football that the top football body took their time to make and release a beautiful documentary about our Captain Fantastic.

Becoming the fourth highest goal-scorer in international football, surpassing Messi at one point

The 4th highest international goal scorer of all time.

The 4th highest international goal scorer of all time. 

Credit:X/@chetrisunil11

The reliable Indian ace holds many a scoring record, including being the top scorer of the SAFF Championship and of the ISL among other tournament, club and country charts.

However, the record that Indian fans, and perhaps he himself, will cherish the most is his 94 international goals, which makes him the 4th highest international goal scorer of all time, behind the like of Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, Ali Daei of Iran and Argentine Lionel Messi.

At one point in early 2021, Chhetri had even surpassed Messi, who is arguably the greatest footballer of all time, before the Argentinian took it back later.

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Published 16 May 2024, 13:50 IST

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