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Nepali origin Indian footballer (born 1984)

Sunil Chhetri

Chhetri training with Bengaluru in 2021
Personal information
Full name Sunil Chhetri
Date of birth (1984-08-03) 3 August 1984 (age 38)
Place of birth Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh
(now in Telangana), India
Height 170 m (5 ft 7 in)
Position(s) Forward
Club information
Current team
Bengaluru
Number 11
Youth career
2001–2002 City Club Delhi
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2002–2005 Mohun Bagan 18 (8)
2005–2008 JCT 48 (21)
2008–2009 East Bengal 17 (9)
2009–2010 Dempo 13 (8)
2010 Kansas City Wizards 1 (0)
2011 Chirag United 7 (7)
2011–2012 Mohun Bagan 14 (8)
2012–2013 Sporting CP B 3 (0)
2013 → Churchill Brothers (loan) 8 (4)
2013–2015 Bengaluru 43 (16)
2015–2016 Mumbai City 17 (7)
2016 → Bengaluru (loan) 14 (5)
2016– Bengaluru 119 (51)
National team
2004 India U20 3 (2)
2006–2007 India U23 2 (0)
2005– India 131 (84)
Honours
Representing  India
SAFF Championship
Winner 2021 Maldives
Winner 2015 India
Winner 2011 India
Runner-up 2013 Nepal
Runner-up 2008 Maldives & Sri Lanka
AFC Challenge Cup
Winner 2008 India
Representing  India U-20
South Asian Games
2004 Pakistan
Club domestic league appearances and goals, correct as of 17:44, 17 November 2022 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals, correct as of 18:51, 27 September 2022 (UTC)

Sunil Chhetri (born 3 August 1984) is an Indian professional footballer who plays as a forward and captains both the Indian Super League club Bengaluru and the India national team Widely regarded as the greatest Indian player of all time and the best Indian strikers of all time, Chhetri is known for his link-up play, goal scoring abilities and leadership Sunil Chhetri is also the third-highest international goalscorer among active players, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the joint fifth-highest of all time, and he is also the most-capped player and the all-time top goalscorer of Indian football team

Chhetri began his professional career at Mohun Bagan in 2002, moving to JCT where he scored 21 goals in 48 games Sunil was part of Delhi team in the 59th edition of Santosh trophy held at Delhi He scored 6 goals in that tournament including a hat-trick against Gujarat Delhi lost to Kerala in the quarter finals and he scored in that match too He signed for Major League Soccer side the Kansas City Wizards in 2010, becoming the third player from the subcontinent of note to go abroad He returned to India’s I-League where he played for Chirag United and Mohun Bagan before going back abroad, at Sporting CP of the Primeira Liga, where he played for the club’s reserve side

Chhetri helped India win the 2007, 2009, and 2012 Nehru Cup, as well as the 2011, 2015, and 2021 SAFF Championship He has also helped India win the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, which qualified them to their first AFC Asian Cup in 27 years, scoring twice in the final tournament in 2011 Chhetri has also been named AIFF Player of the Year a record seven times in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018–19 and 2021-22

Chhetri received the Arjuna Award in 2011 for his outstanding sporting achievement, the Padma Shri award in 2019, India’s fourth highest civilian award In 2021, he received the Khel Ratna Award, India’s highest sporting honor and became the first footballer to receive the award

In September 2022, Chhetri was honored by FIFA for his achievements who released three episodes on his life and career

Club career

Mohun Bagan

Chhetri began his professional football journey with Mohun Bagan of the National Football League after playing with City Football Club of New Delhi After his first season with the club, the 2002–03 season, Chhetri had scored four goals as Mohun Bagan finished in seventh place in the table The next season, Chhetri scored only two goals The first came against Sporting Goa while the second came against Indian Bank as Mohun Bagan once again finished in the bottom half of the table, in ninth place Chhetri then once again scored only two goals during the 2004–05 season; this time Mohun Bagan finished eighth in the league and remained in the National Football League on goal difference

JCT

In 2005, Chhetri signed for JCT for the 2005–06 season During that season, Chhetri scored three goals He scored twice against Salgaocar before the third came against Sporting Goa, as JCT finished the season that year in sixth place Meanwhile, in the Santosh Trophy, Chhetri scored two hat-tricks for Delhi in the group stages of the 61st Santosh Trophy against both Orissa and Railways However, despite Chhetri’s best efforts, Delhi were eliminated in the pre-quarter final round after losing 1–0 to Tamil Nadu in extra time

Then, during the 2006–07 season, Chhetri scored a total of twelve goals in the league for JCT as the club finished in second place, behind Dempo Among his best games during that season were the matches against his former club Mohun Bagan and Dempo in which he scored braces in both matches as JCT won both games 2–0 and 3–2 respectively

Then, during the very first season of the I-League, Chhetri scored seven goals as JCT finished the season in third place His only brace that season came against Salgaocar during the final match of the season Midway through that season though, in December 2007, Chhetri was awarded the AIFF Player of the Year award for 2007 for his excellent form and performances for his club and country

Interest abroad

Sunil Chhetri, stating his desire to move abroad to play alongside Spanish striker David Villa

In October 2008, it was rumored that Chhetri had sparked interest from foreign clubs These clubs were Leeds United of the Football League One and Estoril Praia of the Liga de Honra, the second division of Portugal During an interview Chhetri said that “Nothing has been confirmed as yet but yes, I think I am close to getting there” indicating that there was a chance of him signing in England However, in the end, a move never materialized

East Bengal

Before the 2008–09 season began, Chhetri signed with fellow I-League side East Bengal He scored on his debut for East Bengal against Chirag United on 26 September 2008 in which he scored in the 28th minute as East Bengal won the match 3–1

Chhetri then went on to score a crucial goal for East Bengal during the Federation Cup in which he scored the only goal against his former club, JCT, which led to East Bengal booking a place in the semi-finals During the semi-final match, East Bengal took on arch-rivals and another of Sunil’s former clubs, Mohun Bagan, in which he missed the decisive penalty in the penalty shootout as East Bengal were officially knocked-out of the tournament

Midway through the season though, reports came out suggesting that two Major League Soccer teams were interesting in Chhetri, along with his international teammate Steven Dias These two MLS sides were rumored to be the Los Angeles Galaxy and DC United However, on 25 January 2009, Chhetri arrived in Coventry, England to begin a trial at Coventry City of the Football League Championship, thus rejecting MLS Four days later though, Coventry City manager Chris Coleman said that they would not be following their interest in Chhetri Four months later though, Chhetri said that he would go back to Coventry City in June 2009 for another extended trial That never materialized however

Dempo

Upon being released by East Bengal, Chhetri signed a two-year contract with another fellow I-League side, Dempo on 22 May 2009 In his contract was a clause which allowed him to leave for trials abroad in the future if he wanted to

More foreign interest

On 7 August 2009 it was reported that Scottish Premier League side Celtic were linked with a move to sign Chhetri The Scottish club had watched Chhetri during a pre-season friendly with Santboià, a Segunda División B side, in a pre-season fixture Yogesh Joshee, Chhetri’s agent, was quoted as saying, “I’m waiting to get feedback from Celtic, who saw him on Monday by head scout and then another scout came to watch game, I’ll let you know the outcome when I know”

Then on 30 August 2009 it was announced by the Hindustan Times that Chhetri had signed a three-year contract with English Football League Championship side Queens Park Rangers but that he was denied a work permit by the British government According to an article on the Football Players’ Association of India’s official website, Chhetri was denied a work permit because India were not in the top 70 of the FIFA World Rankings Chhetri, however, remained positive: “But it’s not the end of the world I will still continue to work hard for my country and my club Dempo, who have been very supportive”

Kansas City

In March 2010 it was announced that Chhetri was on trial with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer and that he had played during their pre-season games He then formally signed for the team on 24 March 2010, becoming just the third Indian to play outside of South Asia and the first Indian to play in MLS Peter Vermes, the head coach of the Wizards, was quoted as saying “One thing we really like about Sunil is that he’s a crafty player Technically he’s very sharp, and he’s a guy that has good attacking tendencies”

On 14 April 2010 Chhetri made his debut for the Wizards in the US Open Cup qualification play-in game against the Colorado Rapids in which he started but ended up with a yellow card and was substituted out of the game at half-time as Kansas City lost the match 1–2 Then, on 23 July 2010, it was announced that Chhetri would play in a mid-season friendly against Manchester United However this caused controversy as he had not yet played a league match On 25 July 2010, Chhetri made an appearance for the Wizards against Manchester United, coming on as a substitute for Teal Bunbury in the 69th minute as Kansas City won the match 2–1

However, the next day, it was announced that Chhetri was to compete for the India national team until the end of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup Then on 5 February 2011, it was announced that Chhetri had officially left the team

Chirag United

On 10 February 2011, it was announced that Chirag United had beaten United Sikkim to the signing of Sunil Chhetri for the rest of the 2010–11 I-League season On 3 April 2011, Chhetri scored his first goal for Chirag United against Dempo, however, Dempo won the match 4–2 Chhetri then scored a brace on 29 April 2011 against ONGC to help salvage a 2–2 draw for Chirag

Mohun Bagan

On 22 July 2011, it was announced by I-League club Mohun Bagan that Chhetri has signed a one-year deal with the club

Sporting CP B

On 4 July 2012, it was reported that Chhetri had signed a two-year contract with Sporting CP and would play in their reserve team Then, he made his debut for the side in a Segunda Liga match against Freamunde in which he came on in the 85th minute as Sporting CP B won the match 2–0

Loan to Churchill Brothers

On 13 February 2013, it was announced that in order to get more playing time Chhetri would be loaned out to Churchill Brothers in the I-League for the remainder of the season He made his debut for Churchill Brothers on 26 February 2013 against Kitchee in the 2013 AFC Cup in which Chhetri started as Churchill Brothers lost 0–3 He then scored his first goal for Churchill Brothers in their next match against Semen Padang on 12 March 2013 in which he started and scored in the 27th minute as Churchill Brothers drew the match 2–2 After the season ended, Chhetri had scored four goals in eight matches as he helped Churchill Brothers to their second ever I-League title

Bengaluru

2013–14

On 19 July 2013, following his release from Sporting CP, Chhetri signed with new direct-entry I-League side Bengaluru for the 2013–14 season He made his debut for the club in their opening game on 22 September 2013 against Mohun Bagan in which he came on as a 46th-minute substitute for Beikhokhei Beingaichho as Bengaluru managed a 1–1 draw Chhetri then scored his first goal for the side in the next game against Rangdajied United in which he found the net in the 67th minute as Bengaluru won 3–0

He did not score again for Bengaluru till November when, on the 2nd against Mumbai, Chhetri scored from the penalty-spot in the 57th minute to help Bengaluru FC to a 2–2 draw He then scored his first brace of the season against on 1 December 2013 against Shillong Lajong in which his 7th and 34th-minute strikes helped the team to a 2–1 victory Then in the next match against former club Churchill Brothers Chhetri scored another brace as he led Bengaluru FC to a 3–1 victory He then scored his third brace in a row in the very next match against Mohammedan as he led Bengaluru FC to a 3–2 win in Kolkata

Chhetri then finished off an impressive first half of the season for Bengaluru with a goal from the penalty spot against Salgaocar, his ninth of the season, as he led the Bangalore side to a 2–1 victory He then scored another goal in the teams very first Federation Cup match against Sporting Goa as Bengaluru FC won 5–3 on 15 January 2014 With 14 goals and 7 assist in 23 appearances in the season, Chhetri led Bengaluru FC to their first ever I-League title in its debut season

2014–15

Chhetri began the season in the 2014 Durand Cup, playing and scoring three times but missed the penalty in the shoot-out in the semi-final against Salgaocar which turned out to be the decisive penalty miss as Bengaluru crashed out

Chhetri scored a brace in his side’s first match of 2014–15 Federation Cup against Salgaocar in a match which eventually ended 3–2 in his side’s favor Chhetri scored another brace in the last group stage match of the cup against Pune, scoring one from open play and one from the penalty spot and thus leading his side to the semi final He kept up his form in the semi final against Sporting Goa and assisted Sean Rooney for the first goal and scored the second goal in a match which ended 3–0 in his side’s favor Chhetri scored his 6th goal of the tournament in the final, thus helping them win the 2014–15 Federation Cup Sunil scored his first goal of the 2014–15 season in the 7th round away to Mohun Bagan from a Eugeneson Lyngdoh cross but couldn’t prevent his team from going down 4–1 The CEO of Bengaluru FC, Parth Jindal confirmed that Chhetri along with Robin Singh and Thoi Singh will become contracted to the Indian Super League at the end of the season, to join the ISL team that drafts them in, but an arrangement has been agreed that they will be loaned back to Bengaluru for the next I-League season

Mumbai City

Chhetri was picked up by Mumbai City during the 2015 Indian Super League for ₹12 crores, making him the most expensive Indian player at the auctions He missed his team’s first and second round matches in the 2015 Indian Super League season through national team commitments, playing against Turkmenistan and Oman in Group D of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, but returned against Chennaiyin in a 2–0 loss He scored twice in his second game of the season against Roberto Carlos lead Delhi Dynamos in a 2–0 win, the first for his team in the season before scoring again, from the penalty spot, in the very next game against then table toppers Goa managed by Zico Chhetri made history, becoming the first Indian player to score a hat-trick, in his fourth game of the season, against NorthEast United and taking his total of the season to 6 goals in 4 games he was the top scorer for Mumbai City for that season as he poached 7 Goals fast forward to 2018 he was still the pole position of all-time top scorers for Mumbai City FC he came back in Mumbai colors for 2015–16 season, the team done well this time as they reached playoffs for first time, but national commitments & less game time with the likes of Diego Forlán & Sony Norde kept him away from score sheet After two seasons with the islanders, he signed a three-year contract which made him the highest-paid Indian player in 2017

Return to Bengaluru

2015–16

Chhetri was loaned out to Bengaluru for the 2015–16 I-League season, where he ended up scoring 5 times in the league, thus helping his team win the league title for the second time in three years He also scored twice in a round of 16 match against Kitchee in the 2016 AFC Cup, helping his side to an unlikely 2–3 win away from home This would be the first time Bengaluru had reached the quarter finals of the tournament

2016–17

On 9 June 2016, Bengaluru announced that Chhetri had signed a one-year contract at the club, thus reverting his ownership rights to the club from Mumbai City Chhetri scored twice as Bengaluru won the 2016 AFC Cup semi-final tie by beating Johor Darul Ta’zim in Bengaluru Chhetri’s second goal was a 30-yard strike, where he received the ball from C K Vineeth, beat one defender and unleashed a screamer to give Bengaluru the lead

2017–present

He scored 14 goals for the club during the 2017–18 Indian Super League season and became the top Indian scorer of the league He was also the second top scorer for Bengaluru in the league and won the Hero of the League In 2018, Chhetri went on to win the Indian Super Cup with Bengaluru FC With 9 goals, he was the topscorer for Bengaluru during their 2018–19 season in Indian Super League and helped to win the 2018–19 Indian Super League title Chhetri was Bengaluru’s topscorer during their 2019–20 campaign During the 2020–21 season, he scored eight goals and thus became the topscorer for Bengaluru in three consecutive seasons On 15 February 2021, Chhetri became the first player to make 200 appearances for Bengaluru FC He scored his 100th goal for Bengaluru FC in the final league match of the 2020–21 Indian Super League season against Jamshedpur on 25 February 2021 On 20 June, it was announced that Chhetri had signed a two-year contract extension until 2023 He won the 2022 edition of Durand Cup with the team

International career

On 30 March 2004, Chhetri played his first game for the India U-20 football team in the 1–0 victory over Pakistan U-23 team in the 2004 South Asian Games in Pakistan On 3 April 2004, Chhetri scored twice for the India U-20 team against Bhutan U-23 team in their 4–1 victory On 12 June 2005 Sunil scored his first goal for the senior India national football team against Pakistan

On 15 October 2019, Chhetri became the only Indian to secure a place in the list of top 10 goalscorers in international football

2007–2011

Chhetri (right) celebrating with teammates, after winning the 2007 Nehru Cup final against Syria

Chhetri’s first international tournament was the 2007 Nehru Cup In the opening game, India defeated Cambodia 6–0 with Chhetri scoring two goals He also scored a goal in the 2–3 defeat to Syria and another in the 3–0 win over Kyrgyzstan to take his goal tally to four Chhetri was involved in the build-up to Pappachen Pradeep’s decisive goal as India beat Syria 1–0 in the final to become the first champions of the tournament since 1997 Later in 2007, India began their 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign They were knocked out in the first round by Lebanon with Chhetri scoring once in the away leg (a 4–1 defeat) and once in the home leg (a 2–2 draw) resulting in a 6–3 aggregate defeat

Chhetri celebrating after scoring in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup

The 2008 SAFF Championship started with three victories out of a possible three in the group stages In the opening game, Chhetri scored a goal in a 4–0 victory over Nepal He scored once more in the championship—in the 2–1 semi-final victory over Bhutan; this was an equaliser before Gouramangi Singh scored India’s second goal to send India through to the final India lost 1–0 to the Maldives in the final and Chhetri played for the full 90 minutes Later that year, in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, Chhetri played in all of the matches and scored four goals In the 1–0 win over Afghanistan, he was involved in the build-up to Climax Lawrence’s goal He also played for the full 90 minutes against Tajikistan (a 1–1 draw) and Turkmenistan (a 2–1 win) In the semi-final against Myanmar, Chhetri scored the only goal in a 1–0 victory after being assisted by Bhaichung Bhutia to see India through to the final In the final against Tajikistan, Chhetri scored a hat-trick which enabled India to win the Cup This automatically qualified India for the 2011 Asian Cup, the first time they had qualified for the tournament in 24 years His first goal was originally disallowed for offside by Uzbek referee Valentin Kovalenko, who changed his mind after consulting his assistant Hundreds of fans waited outside the stadium to greet India’s new “poster boy” and India manager Bob Houghton stated, “He is remarkable, brave and honest He never gives up”

Initially, Goalcom stated that Chhetri would miss the 2009 Nehru Cup through injury He played in the tournament, however, and he scored in the second match of the Nehru Cup, a penalty in a 2–1 win over Kyrgyzstan, this being first time he had completed a full match since getting injured before the pre-season tour of Spain with his club He featured in the other three games in the round robin stage of the tournament, including the “dress rehearsal” for the final against Syria, but did not score Chhetri was one of India’s scorers in the penalty shootout victory over Syria in the final after the match had ended in a 1–1 draw He showed flashes of brilliance and scored the second goal in a 5–2 defeat at the hands of Bahrain in the 2011 Asian Cup He also scored a goal against South Korea at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup

He was named the national team Captain for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualification which took place in Malaysia On 16 November 2011 Chhetri scored in the 39th and 53rd minute for India against Malaysia in a friendly match played at the Salt Lake Stadium The match ended 3–2 in favour of India On 11 December 2011 after scoring a goal in SAFF Cup’s final he set a new record by scoring seven goals in a single edition of the SAFF Championship surpassing I M Vijayan’s record of six goals in the 97 edition

2012–2016

Chhetri (no 11) lining up with teammates of the national team in 2012

On 22 August 2012, Chhetri scored a goal with a header in the added time of the first half against Syria in the first match of 2012 Nehru Cup where India won the match 2–1 In the second match, which was on 25 August he scored two goals against Maldives, one goal coming from penalty where the team won 3–0 In the final against fancied opponents Cameroon, Chhetri scored from a well-taken penalty kick to equalize the score at 2–2 In the ensuing penalty shootout which India won 5–4, Chhetri went as the second kick-taker from India and scored

2017–2021

Chhetri (centre) in a 2019 AFC Asian Cup group match against Thailand

On 11 October 2017, Chhetri scored and assisted in a 4–1 home win against Macau in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, with this win they qualified for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup after missing out in 2015 Chhetri captained India to a 13 match unbeaten run before losing the final match to Kyrgyzstan Nonetheless, not only did India qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup but also managed to top their group He was among four renowned Asian players including Ali Daei, Sun Jihai and Phil Younghusband to be chosen for the seeds for the upcoming Asian cup

Chhetri (left) at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup

In June 2018, Chhetri scored a hat-trick in a 5–0 win over Chinese Taipei in their first match of 2018 Intercontinental Cup However, after this match, Chhetri was disappointed with the poor turnout at the stadium and he uploaded a video on Twitter requesting people to come to Mumbai Football Arena to support the Indian team His video went viral and garnered widespread support from fans, celebrities and legendary cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli The stadium was packed with exuberant crowd for the rest of the matches In the second match of the tournament, which was also Chhetri’s 100th international appearance for India and also scored two goals including a goal from penalty spot in a 3–0 victory over Kenya Chhetri scored a goal in the next match against New Zealand, but the match ended 2–1 loss for India though India qualified for the final On 10 June, Chhetri scored twice again in a 2–0 win over Kenya in the final to win the Intercontinental Cup title and also equalled Argentina’s Lionel Messi’s tally of 64 international goals, making him the joint-second active international goalscorer at that time in front of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo He finished as the top scorer of the tournament with eight goals Chhetri’s brace against Thailand on 6 January 2019 helped India to get a historic 4–1 win over them in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup On 7 June 2021, Chhetri scored twice in a 2–0 win over Bangladesh in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification On 13 October 2021, he scored twice again in a 3–1 win over Maldives in the 2021 SAFF Championship, making him the joint-sixth all time international goalscorer at that time, and the third highest active international goalscorer in football, behind only to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo On 16 October 2021, he scored again in a 3–0 win over Nepal in the final of the 2021 SAFF Championship, equalling Messi’s 80 international goals

2022–present

Due to some injuries after 2021–22 Indian Super League season, Sunil was not able to participate for International friendlies against Bahrain and Belarus which were held in March 2022 Then he made his appearance against Jordan in an international friendly fixture which was played as a part of preparing for 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers which was going to be held in June 2022

Sunil Chhetri scoring freekick against Afghanistan

On June 8, 2022, Chhetri played against Cambodia in 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers where he scored a brace, from a penalty spot and a header from a cross from Brandon Fernandes, by which India won 2–0 in Salt Lake Stadium In the next match against Afghanistan, he scored from a freekick taking his international goals tally to 83 India won 2–1 in the match Chhetri scored his 84th goal against Hong Kong in a 4–0 win in the next match India qualified for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup with Chettri becoming the top scorer in the third round of the qualifiers with 4 goals With 84 goals to his tally, Sunil is currently the third highest international goalscorer still actively playing, behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and the joint-fifth highest overall with Ferenc Puskás

Personal life

Sunil Chhetri was born on 3 August 1984 to K B Chhetri, a Nepali Gurkha officer(Colonel) in the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers of the Indian Army, and Sushila Chhetri in Secunderabad, India His father played football for the Indian Army’s team while his mother and her twin sisters played for the Nepal women’s national team Chhetri started playing football from a young age taking part in various tournaments

Chhetri being felicitated by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, at the beginning of 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in New Delhi

On 4 December 2017, Chhetri married his long time girlfriend Sonam Bhattacharya who is the daughter of former Indian international and Mohun Bagan player Subrata Bhattacharya Sunil Chhetri was named an ‘Asian Icon’ by AFC on his 34th birthday in 2018 He signed a 3-year deal with global sports giant Puma starting from 2020

On 27 September 2022, FIFA launched a documentary on FIFA+, of three episodes named ‘Captain Fantastic’, which captures a lot of what is unseen and unheard about Chhetri, be it his pre-teen anguish, his debut for India at age of 20, his romance with his future wife and his early days and peak as a football player with many awards and records under his belt

Player profile

Style of play

Sunil, generally, plays as a left winger in his club football to help and supply his foreign centre forward But for national team, he generally plays as a centre forward which helped him to act as a finisher and also to score 84 goals from 125 Appearances for his national team with a better goals per game ratio than his club football career Chhetri’s style of play increasingly features elements identical to Kom’s trademark never-quit commitment and sheer grit Where he was once all spark plug and no gears, now it’s watchful cruise control, but without concession on any scoring opportunity In his entertaining From Delhi To The Den (written along with Owen Amos), the former India manager Stephen Constantine says this “hard-working striker with superb technique” is crucial to team spirit because he embodies fearlessness You can see it in the goals he racks up, one after another: the astonishing 80-yard run foxing seven separate defenders to score against Kyrgyzstan, the imperious chip over Kenya’s outclassed goalkeeper, the edges, parries and headers piled up relentlessly to break every Indian record

“Chhetri is in a category all by himself”, says Marcus Mergulhao, Goan sports journalist of The Times of India, who is himself one of Indian football’s most respected institutions He told me, “As a player, he has made youngsters fall in love with the game As a person, he has made the media take note He is the face and voice of Indian football, who has inspired a generation and given us hope What’s more, he’s playing his very best at the moment The last three years have been phenomenal The ultimate gift the current crop of footballers can give back to him is take India among the top ten in Asia, and play against the top teams on a regular basis Chhetri would be pleased with that”

Mergulhao says the superstar “is a different player and an extremely different person from the one that I had coffee with for the first time in the summer of 2009 It is his stints abroad that changed everything – at the Sporting Kansas City in the United States and later with Sporting CP in Portugal Those experiences opened his eyes to another, more professional approach, more efficient ways of training, and probably showed him just how much ground he needed to cover He didn’t get to play very much, but by the time he returned he was clearly transformed, and you could see on the field that he was clearly a cut above the rest” While still with Sporting CP, Chhetri was lent to the Goa team Churchill Brothers FC Goa, and Mergulhao recalls one crucial game when “with just a few minutes left, Chhetri stepped up and scored from a free kick so effortlessly that you could tell this man had astounding self-belief The Brazilian star Roberto Mendes da Silva Beto was also in that side and the regular free kick taker, but Chhetri knew what he was doing, showing incredible poise and confidence You have to remember that in the first ten years of his career, this player did not win any league title, then in the next seven years, he won four That’s how you understand Chhetri as a footballer, and the influence he has over Indian football” Sunil also likes to score by dribbling the defenders with his fake touches and also from long rangers like how he did against some teams like Johor Darul Ta’zim in 2016 AFC Cup

Career statistics

Club

As of 17 November 2022

Club Season League Cup Continental Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Mohun Bagan 2002–03 National Football League 18 4 18 4
2003–04 2 2
2004–05 2 2
Mohun Bagan total 18 8 18 8
JCT 2005–06 National Football League 48 3 48 3
2006–07 12 12
2007–08 I-League 7 7
JCT total 48 22 48 22
East Bengal 2008–09 I-League 17 9 4 2 0 0 5 2 26 13
East Bengal total 17 9 4 2 0 0 5 2 26 13
Dempo 2009–10 I-League 13 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 13 8
Dempo total 13 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 13 8
Kansas City Wizards 2010 Major League Soccer 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Kansas City Wizards total 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Chirag United 2010–11 I-League 7 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 7
Chirag United total 7 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 7
Mohun Bagan 2011–12 I-League 14 8 2 1 0 0 0 0 16 9
Dempo total 14 8 2 1 0 0 0 0 16 9
Sporting CP B 2012–13 LigaPro 3 0 0 0 3 0
Sporting CP B total 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
Churchill Brothers (loan) 2012–13 I-League 8 4 0 0 5 2 0 0 13 6
Churchill Brothers total 8 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 13 6
Bengaluru 2013–14 I-League 23 14 3 1 0 0 26 15
2014–15 20 2 6 6 6 3 0 0 32 11
Bengaluru total 43 16 9 7 6 3 0 0 58 26
Mumbai City 2015 Indian Super League 11 7 0 0 11 7
Mumbai City total 11 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 11 7
Bengaluru (loan) 2015–16 I-League 14 5 2 1 4 3 0 0 20 9
Bengaluru total 14 5 2 1 4 3 0 0 20 9
Mumbai City 2016 Indian Super League 6 0 0 0 6 0
Mumbai City total 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 0
Bengaluru 2016–17 I-League 16 7 3 0 11 5 0 0 30 12
2017–18 Indian Super League 21 14 4 6 8 4 0 0 33 24
2018–19 19 9 1 1 2 0 0 0 22 10
2019–20 17 9 0 0 2 2 0 0 19 11
2020–21 20 8 1 1 0 0 21 9
2021–22 20 4 3 0 0 0 23 4
2022–23 6 0 7 3 0 0 0 0 13 3
Bengaluru total 119 51 15 10 27 12 0 0 161 73
Career total 321 145 33 21 42 20 5 2 401 188

International

Main article: List of international goals scored by Sunil Chhetri

Chhetri (left) celebrating a goal with his teammate Anirudh Thapa in a 2019 AFC Asian Cup group match against Thailand

As of match played 27 September 2022
Appearances and goals by year
Year Apps Goals
2005 5 1
2006 1 0
2007 7 6
2008 13 8
2009 6 1
2010 6 3
2011 17 13
2012 8 4
2013 11 5
2014 2 3
2015 12 6
2016 4 2
2017 6 5
2018 6 8
2019 11 7
2021 10 8
2022 6 4
Total 131 84

Honours

Club

Dempo

  • I-League: 2009–10

Churchill Brothers

  • I-League: 2012–13

Bengaluru

  • Indian Super League: 2018–19
  • I-League: 2013–14, 2015–16
  • Federation Cup: 2014–15, 2016–17
  • Super Cup: 2018
  • Durand Cup: 2022
  • AFC Cup: runner-up 2016

International

India

  • AFC Asia Cup Football: (2 appearances)
  • AFC Challenge Cup: 2008 (Asian 2nd tier Continental Championship)
  • SAFF Championship: 2011, 2015, 2021; runner-up: 2008, 2013
  • Nehru Cup: 2007, 2009, 2012
  • Intercontinental Cup: 2018
  • King’s Cup third place: 2019

India U-20

  • South Asian Games Silver medal: 2004

Individual

Pratibha Patil, then-president of India, presenting the Arjuna Award to Chhetri in 2011

  • FIFA honoured him in 2022 on the occasion of 2022 FIFA World Cup by releasing 3 episodes of documentary about his life and career for becoming the 3rd most international goal scorers in the World among active players
  • AIFF Player of the Year (7): 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018–19 2021–22
  • FPAI Indian Player of the Year (3): 2009, 2018, 2019
  • SAFF Championship Player of the Tournament: 2011, 2015, 2021
  • SAFF Championship Top Scorer: 2011, 2021
  • I-League Golden Boot: 2013–14
  • Hero of the I-League: 2016–17
  • Hero of the Indian Super League: 2017–18
  • Hero of the Intercontinental Cup: 2018
  • AFC Asian Icon: 3 August 2018
  • Football Ratna Award (first recipient) by Football Delhi: 18 February 2019

Others

  • AFC Cup All-time XI (The Strikers): Inductee (2021)

Awards and accolades

  • 2011 − Arjuna Award, by the Government of India in recognition of his outstanding achievement in sports
  • 2019 − Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award
  • 2021 – Khel Ratna Award, highest sporting honour of India

Records

  • First Indian player to have played in three different continents
  • Most goals by an Indian in AFC Competitions
  • Most hat-tricks by an Indian in Indian Super League
  • First Indian player to score hat-trick in Indian Super League
  • Highest Indian goal scorer in Indian Super League
  • Highest Indian goal scorer in I-League
  • AIFF Player of the Year for a record seven times
  • Most hat-tricks for India
  • Most appearances for India (131)
  • Highest international goals by an Indian (84)
  • First Footballer to receive Khel Ratna Award

See also

  • Biography portal
  • Association football portal
  • India portal
  • List of top international men’s football goal scorers by country
  • List of men’s footballers with 100 or more international caps
  • List of men’s footballers with 50 or more international goals
  • List of India national football team hat-tricks
  • List of Indian football first tier top scorers
  • List of Indian football players in foreign leagues
  • FPAI Indian Player of the Year
  • AIFF Player of the Year

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