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Sunil Chhetri Announces Retirement from International Football

Sunil Chhetri, India’s most decorated footballer, has announced his retirement from international football. The FIFA World Cup Qualifier game against Kuwait in Kolkata on June 6 will be his last appearance for the national team.

Chhetri’s Illustrious Journey

Chhetri’s remarkable journey began in 2002 with Mohun Bagan. His talent soon propelled him abroad, with stints at the USA’s Kansas City Wizards (2010) and Portugal’s Sporting CP reserves (2012). Back in India, he donned the jerseys of prestigious clubs like East Bengal, Dempo, Mumbai City FC, and currently, Bengaluru FC. It’s with Bengaluru that Chhetri truly flourished, lifting trophies like the I-League (2014, 2016), ISL (2019), and Super Cup (2018). He even led them to the AFC Cup final in 2016.

The Goal-Scoring Machine

While club success is impressive, Sunil Chhetri’s true magic lies in his international exploits. He has been instrumental in India’s victories in the Nehru Cup (2007, 2009, 2012) and the SAFF Championship (2011, 2015, 2021). Most significantly, his contribution to India’s 2008 AFC Challenge Cup win secured their first AFC Asian Cup appearance in 27 years.

But it’s his goalscoring prowess that sets Chhetri apart. Since his debut goal in 2002, he has amassed a staggering tally. With 94 goals in 150 international appearances, he sits comfortably as the third-highest active international goal-scorer, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Lionel Messi of Argentina. This achievement places him fourth on the all-time list.

Milestones and Records

Chhetri’s international debut came in 2005, followed by his first goal against Pakistan. A defining moment arrived in the 2011 SAFF Championship, where he surpassed Indian legend I.M. Vijayan’s record of six goals in a single edition by scoring a phenomenal seven, propelling India to victory and becoming the national team’s highest scorer.

Across club and country, Chhetri’s goal tally stands at a remarkable 252 in 515 appearances, averaging almost a goal every two games. This consistency and talent haven’t gone unnoticed. In 2022, FIFA honoured him with a documentary titled “Captain Fantastic,” celebrating his journey and achievements.

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

As Sunil Chhetri prepares to bid farewell to international football, his legacy as one of India’s greatest ever players is firmly cemented. His dedication, leadership, and scoring prowess have inspired a generation of aspiring footballers and propelled Indian football to new heights on the global stage.

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