Indian Football Updates 2024: Captain Sunil Chhetri Announces Retirement After a Stellar Career

Indian Football Team Updates: Sunil Chhetri, India’s most revered footballer and record-breaking goal scorer, has recently declared his retirement from international football.

The most decorated football player in India, Sunil Chhetri, has declared his retirement from international competition. The 39-year-old Chhetri announced in a video posted on the social networking site X that the forthcoming FIFA World Cup Qualifier between India and Kuwait in Kolkata on June 6 will be his final match.

Indian Football Updates 2024: Captain Sunil Chhetri Announces Retirement After a Stellar Career

“Looking back on the past 19 years is a mixture of obligation, stress, and extreme happiness. I never would have imagined that I would play so many games for my nation, whether they were good or bad, but during the past two and a half months, I have. And that was a pretty strange feeling. I think I was leaning toward the conclusion that this match (against Kuwait) would be my last,” Chhetri remarked.

Indian football legend Sunil Chhetri has had a spectacular career spanning more than 20 years. This talented forward has made a name for himself both on the international scene and in domestic competitions. Chhetri will play his final game at the same place where he made his India debut 19 years ago, call it a coincidence or a twist of fate.

To maintain their chances of earning a ticket in the World Cup Qualifiers Round 3, India must win their match against Kuwait. India, with four points from four games and a current ranking of second in Group A, will play their last group stage match against Qatar. Only the two best teams advance.

“I always go back to the day I played for my country man for the first time; it was an incredible experience that I will never forget. However, my first national team coach, Sukhi sir, approached me early on the morning of the big day and said, “Are you going to start?” Man, I can’t even tell you how I felt. I took my jersey and, for some reason, sprayed it with perfume.

Thus, everything that transpired on that day—from breakfast to lunch to the match to my first goal on my debut to conceding in the late eighty-minute mark—is likely something I will never forget and ranks among the greatest days of my time with the national team.” Chhetri continued.

“And that’s when I started remembering everything—that is, when I realized that, yes, this game would be my last. It was really weird. I began to think about this game, that game, that coach, that coach, that team, that player, that field, that away game, that good game, that awful game, all of my individual performances—everything appeared, every flash of insight appeared. So I said, “This is it,”.”

In 2002, Chhetri set out on his journey with Mohun Bagan. His skill quickly took him overseas, as seen by his assignments with the Sporting CP reserves of Portugal (2012) and the Kansas City Wizards of the USA (2010). When he was back in India, he wore the jerseys of elite teams like Bengaluru FC, Mumbai City FC, East Bengal, and Dempo.

Chhetri really took off with Bengaluru, winning titles like the Super Cup (2018), I-League (2014), and ISL (2019). In 2016, he even guided them to the AFC Cup championship.

Sunil Chhetri, the Goal Scoring Machine

Although Sunil Chhetri’s performance at clubs is great, his international achievements are what really make him special. India’s triumphs in the SAFF Championship (2011, 2015, 2021) and the Nehru Cup (2007, 2009, 2012) have been greatly aided by him. Most notably, he helped India win the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, which allowed them to qualify for their first AFC Asian Cup in 27 years.

Also Read: Top 10 Most International Goal Scorer In Football: From Puskas to Cristiano and Sunil Chhetri

But what really makes Chhetri stand out is his ability to score goals. He’s scored an incredible amount of goals since making his goal debut in 2002. He is comfortably the third-highest active international goal scorer, behind only Lionel Messi of Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, with 94 goals in 150 appearances for his country. With this accomplishment, he now stands fourth all-time.

Indian Football Updates 2024: Captain Sunil Chhetri Announces Retirement After a Stellar Career

2005 saw Chhetri make his debut for his country, and he then scored his first goal against Pakistan. His incredible seven goals in the 2011 SAFF Championship, which propelled India to victory and made him the greatest goal scorer for the national side, eclipsed Indian icon I.M. Vijayan’s record of six goals in a single edition. It was a pivotal occasion.

Chhetri has scored 252 goals in 515 appearances for both club and country, averaging nearly a goal every two games. This brilliance and consistency have not gone unnoticed. FIFA honored him in 2022 with a documentary named “Captain Fantastic,” which highlighted his accomplishments and journey.

Sunil Chhetri’s Retirement Announcement: Emotional Reactions from Family

Sunil Chhetri’s recent retirement announcement from international football has sparked emotional reactions from his close family members, with both his mother, Sushila, and wife, Sonam Bhattacharya, visibly moved upon hearing the news. Chhetri, a revered football icon and the current captain of the national team, revealed in a heartfelt video message that his final match in national colors will be the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Kuwait in Kolkata on June 6, marking the end of a distinguished career spanning nearly two decades.

Chhetri recounted the moments leading up to his decision, sharing that he initially confided in his father, KB Chhetri, a retired army personnel, along with his mother and wife about his retirement plans. While his father expressed relief and happiness, Chhetri was taken aback by the tears shed by his mother and wife, highlighting the deep emotional connection they share with his football journey.

The 39-year-old footballer, who recently reached a milestone of 150 appearances for India and remains the country’s all-time leading goal scorer, reflected on the mixed emotions surrounding his retirement. Despite not feeling physically fatigued, Chhetri explained that the instinctual realization that it was time to step away from international play prompted his decision.

As he prepares for his final game representing India, Chhetri expressed a desire to savor every moment with the national team, acknowledging the bittersweet nature of bidding farewell to a lifelong passion. His dedication and love for the game shine through as he looks forward to cherishing these last days on the field, culminating in a match against Kuwait that holds significant importance for India’s qualifying ambitions.

The poignant reactions from Chhetri’s family members serve as a testament to the impact his illustrious career has had not only on the footballing world but also on those closest to him. The legacy of Sunil Chhetri, India’s footballing stalwart, will undoubtedly endure as he embarks on a new chapter beyond the pitch.

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