Sunil Chhetri’s football career and achievements | In pictures


05 AFC FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT 13 08 08 DEL

File picture of Sunil Chhetri celebrating with the national team after winning the 2007 Nehru Cup. Chhetri scored a hat-trick in the final as India defeated Tajikistan 4-1
| Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri has announced his retirement from international football, stating that the World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait on June 6, 2024, will be his final game for the Blue Tigers.

The 39-year-old is India’s all-time leading goalscorer for the Indian team and has played more matches than anyone in the history of the national team.

File picture of Sunil Chhetri with former national team captain Bhaichung Bhutia in 2008

File picture of Sunil Chhetri with former national team captain Bhaichung Bhutia in 2008
| Photo Credit:
Shanker Chakravarty

He made his senior-level debut for India in June 2005 against arch-rivals Pakistan and found the back of the net on his debut. He won his first international trophy when India defeated Syria in the final of the 2007 Nehru Cup. He would go on to win two more Nehru Cup titles with India in 2009 and 2012.

Sunil Chhetri scores against Syria in the final of the ONGC Nehru Cup football tournament in New Delhi on August 31, 2009. 

Sunil Chhetri scores against Syria in the final of the ONGC Nehru Cup football tournament in New Delhi on August 31, 2009. 
| Photo Credit:
S. Subramanium

In the following year, Chhetri scored a hat-trick in the AFC Challenge Cup final, when India defeated Tajikistan 4-1. He helped India establish itself as a dominant force in South Asian football with further SAFF Championship title wins in 2011, 2015, 2021 and 2023.

Chhetri receives the Best Footballer of the Year Award from A.R. Khaleel, Subrata Dutta and Wim Koeverman during AIFF award function, in New Delhi on February 12, 2014.

Chhetri receives the Best Footballer of the Year Award from A.R. Khaleel, Subrata Dutta and Wim Koeverman during AIFF award function, in New Delhi on February 12, 2014.
| Photo Credit:
Sandeep Saxena

In his decorated career, India’s former ace striker Bhaichung Bhutia passed the baton to him and chose Chhetri to lead the national football team. Chhetri featured at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup and was first named the national team captain at the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.

Chhetri celebrates after scoring a goal against Afghanistan, with Jeje Lalpekhula, Syed Rahim Nabi and Nirmal Chettri during the finals of the SAFF Football Championship 2011 in New Delhi on December 11, 2011.

Chhetri celebrates after scoring a goal against Afghanistan, with Jeje Lalpekhula, Syed Rahim Nabi and Nirmal Chettri during the finals of the SAFF Football Championship 2011 in New Delhi on December 11, 2011.
| Photo Credit:
SUBRAMANIUM S

Chhetri has won the prestigious All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year title a total of seven times in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons.

Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri receives the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award from President Ramnath Kovind on November 13, 2021, in recognition of his outstanding achievements in Football

Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri receives the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award from President Ramnath Kovind on November 13, 2021, in recognition of his outstanding achievements in Football
| Photo Credit:
X/@rashtrapatibhvn

He was also conferred upon the Arjuna Award in 2011 and the Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award in 2021. He is the first footballer to win the Khel Ratna, the country’s highest award for sporting achievement.

It was under his leadership India entered the top 100 rankings for the first time in 2023 since 2018.

Sunil Chhetri holds the awards for best player and top goalscorer after India won the 2023 SAFF Championship beating Kuwait in the final, in Bengaluru on July 4, 2023.

Sunil Chhetri holds the awards for best player and top goalscorer after India won the 2023 SAFF Championship beating Kuwait in the final, in Bengaluru on July 4, 2023.
| Photo Credit:
MURALI KUMAR K

Chhetri played his landmark 150th game for India on March 26, 2024 in India’s 2-1 loss to Afghanistan in the FIFA World Cup qualifier.

Ahead of his final match, Chhetri has scored 94 goals in 150 international matches for India, putting him fourth in the all-time list of goalscorers among FIFA members. Among the active players, he is only behind Lionel Messi (106 goals in 180 matches) and Cristiano Ronaldo (128 goals in 205 matches).

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There is no mention of Chhetri retiring from club football yet, so he is expected to continue playing for Bengaluru FC in the ISL. He has represented the club in the I-League and Indian Super League since 2013.

(With inputs from ANI)



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