Retiring As a Legend

The iconic number nine of Indian football made his debut in 2005 for the national team scoring 94 goals for the country….reports Asian Lite News

It is truly a sad day for Indian football as Sunil Chhetri, one of the greatest players in Indian football, has announced his decision to retire following FIFA World Cup 2026 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2 match against Kuwait in Kolkata on June 6.

As the news spread, some of the biggest names in India have shared their views on the 39-year old’s retirement call.

Bhaichung Bhutia, who Chhetri admired most and under whom Chhetri grew up, told IANS that “he has contributed so much to Indian football. Indian football is going to miss a legendary footballer like him.”

“He has contributed so much to Indian football. Indian football is going to miss a legendary footballer like him. There will be a huge gap to fill now. Overall I think he was too professional and is one of the greatest examples to the generations to come. His focused dedication is exemplary,” Bhaichung added.

Chhetri played his 150th match against Afghanistan in March earlier this year. The iconic number nine of Indian football made his debut in 2005 for the national team scoring 94 goals for the country.

The skipper is India’s all-time top scorer and the most capped player for the national side. He is also the third highest scorer for the National team among active players only behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

“There are few players without whom the sport is left poorer. Sunil Chhetri is one. We are lucky to have him play for India. it is not over yet. He still has to lead us against Kuwait and win it for us, to make the most fond farewell for Sunil and for Indian football. He is an icon, legend. For him Indian football has benefitted in many ways. Wish him the best,” said Kalyan Chaubey, president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

Chhetri’s one time teammate, one of the best goalkeepers the country has seen, Subrata Paul told IANS, “I respect Sunil’s decision to retire from international football. I understand it is a very tough call. We have been on the same side of the field numerous times, learning and pushing each other. He has been an inspiration and has set the standards exceptionally high. Good luck my friend for your life beyond the field. Looking forward to walking it together.”

Midfield general Mehtab Hussain, who played alongside Chhetri, in many matches recalled that he and Sunil used to play together for Mohun Bagan, the oldest club to still exist in India.

“We started together at the Mohun Bagan club. See, every player has to call it a day, sooner or later. He might have understood or felt that this is my last match. It varies from person to person. He played for a very long time and gave his services to the National and club teams. Hats off to him the way he has taken himself to such a height. I, as a friend, feel proud of him,” Mehtab said.

Tribute to Stellar Career

Following Sunil Chhetri’s official announcement in which the striker announced that he will be playing his last game for India against Kuwait on June 6, many boards, teams and players have come out pay tribute to the Indian captain’s stellar career.

The official handle for the FIFA World Cup has posted a tribute for Chhetri as well which included the iconic photo of him standing with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on a podium, which signifies the top three active international goal scorers.

The picture was coupled with a caption, “Retiring as a legend”.

“Sunil Chhetri, the world’s third-highest active international goalscorer, will play his final game for Indian Football in next month’s FIFA WorldCup qualifiers,” added the official account for the FIFA World Cup on X (formerly known as Twitter).

The 39-year old played his 150th game for his country against Afghanistan last month. He has scored 94 goals so far in his international career with fans hoping he finds the back of the net at least one more time in the blue tigers jersey during the game vs Kuwait at Salt Lake Stadium.

FIFA World Cup’s official account also posted a video of Chhetri’s previous interview in which he talked about the comparisons made between him, Messi and Ronaldo.

“Some of the fans go overboard and think about comparing (with Messi & Ronaldo) but there are footballing fans who understand there is no comparison between the kind of players that we are but I will definitely compete with them with all my might in terms of giving the best for your country. There I probably would not lose,” Chhetri had said to FIFA +

A Legacy of Dedication and Inspiration

The loss of Sunil Chhetri is not one that can be described in words. Following the announcement of his impending retirement, the sports fraternity has come alive to pay their tributes to one of the best to ever grace the pitch.

Chhetri, who is known for his calm, composure and maturity both on and off the pitch, features that another former Indian captain is well known for. Former India football captain IM Vijayan has compared the 39-year-old with ‘Captain Cool’ MS Dhoni.

“I consider Chhetri a great player, a terrific motivator, and an ideal captain. He is like MS Dhoni, who has excelled both as a player and a captain. The kind of discipline Chhetri maintained throughout his career has made him a role model.

“I tell youngsters like Sahal Abdul Samad and Ashique Kuruniyan to follow Chhetri’s lifestyle if they wish to prolong their careers. It will take some time before we get another footballer like Sunil Chhetri in India,” Vijayan was quoted as saying by AIFF.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah, too, lavished praise on Chhetri, stating, “@chetrisunil11, one of India’s most decorated footballers, has announced his retirement from international football. Your dedication and passion have been an inspiration to millions. As a pioneer of Indian football, you’ve not only achieved remarkable success but also elevated the sport in our country. Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors!”

Chhetri will don the Blue Tigers jersey one final time as he walks out on the pitch at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata against Kuwait in a must win FIFA WC Joint Qualifier on June 6. The match is of great significance as the venue is the most iconic football ground in the country and holds a lot of history having seen the best of Indian footballing moments.

Meanwhile, AIFF acting general secretary M Satyanarayan, said, “It would be an understatement to say that Sunil Chhetri’s retirement will be a big loss for Indian Football. We have seen the dedication with which he has played for both club and country.

“Even at the age of 39, he is one of the fittest players on the pitch. Right now, the only thing that we can do is look back on his glorious career and celebrate it. We certainly hope that he will do the job for the nation one last time on June 6, but whatever the result may be, he will certainly go down as one of the legends of Indian Football. I would like to sincerely thank him for his massive contribution to Indian Football,” he added.

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