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Sunil Chhetri: The Indian Phenomenon

A colossus of Indian football, Sunil Chhetri is India’s all-time top scorer and the second highest in the list of active international scorers in world football. A Bengaluru FC player since their inception, he is definitely a captain, a leader, and a legend. He scored 14 goals in 2017-18, the most by an Indian in a single season of Hero ISL. For his magnificent performances, he walked away with the ‘Hero of the League’ award in the 2017-18 campaign and was also adjudged the ‘AIFF Player of the Year’ for 2017. Chhetri added yet another feather to his adorned cap as he led the team to the Hero ISL 2018-19 trophy. He was also the top scorer for the team during the 2019-20 season, with nine goals to his name. As of before the 2020-21 season, Chhetri is the highest scorer amongst Indians in the league’s history. His tally of 39 is only behind Ferran Corominas’ 48 Hero ISL goals in the list of all-time top goal scorers.

Early career

The Indian star started his career in the Bengal-based club, Mohun Bagan. The, then, 17-year-old impressed everyone at and around the club. He caught the attention of the Indian Football Federation. They started scouting the young, talented Chhetri. He never looked behind from then onwards.

Chhetri flourished and was fully grown under his 3-year spell at the Bengal-based club. Several other indigenous clubs reached out to him. Although the breakthrough in his career was when he got a call out for Kansas City, the Major League Soccer club. 

There he featured for the club in the pre-season friendlies and ultimately signed for the club in 2010.  Peter Vermes the, then, 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 is very sharp, and he’s a guy that has good attacking tendencies.”

Getting a run out as the first Indian to feature in the MLS is one thing but getting appreciated for your skills is another. Not many have done it. Not many would be able to do it. The year after that he might have left the team, but in this short stint with the American club, he played against the likes of Manchester United as well.

Picture Source – The New Indian Express

International Success

Sunil Chhetri, during his career in Mohun Bagan, caught the attention of the Indian Team selectors. He got the run out for the Indian Youth Team in 2004. After that, it is just history and records were at his mercy.

Just the year after he has shown under the youth team, he got a call out for his first senior debut, at the age of just 21. Since then, the man has been firing all guns blazing as the pistol from the front. Records after records, accolades after accolades, he just started doing everything in his might to push his country forward in the sport.

He rose to the occasion every time the Blue Tigers needed him to. This earned him plaudits. And he was rewarded by given the captain’s armband for his national side, in the year 2011. This transformed him not only as a player but as a person as well. The maturity was showing, the Indian Football had lacked for long. “Captain Fantastic” the fans started chanting, whenever Chhetri scores.

Sunil Chhetri - Indian National Team Captain
Sunil Chhetri – Indian National Team Captain

The breakthrough moment came for ‘the Leader’ of the Blue Tigers this year when he surpassed the tally of the International Goals of Leonel Messi. This is just what was needed for him. The face of Indian Football, the legend, has been carrying the nation on his shoulders. And it is not over yet!

 

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