Record-breaking Indian Captain Sunil Chhetri is Quitting International Football - Latest Global News

Record-breaking Indian Captain Sunil Chhetri is Quitting International Football

India’s record goalscorer and most capped player says it is time for the country to see “the next number nine” in an emotional video announcing his retirement.

India captain Sunil Chhetri says he will retire from international football, ending a record-breaking career for his country that spanned two decades.

Chhetri, the country’s top goalscorer, will retire after the World Cup qualifier against Kuwait on June 6, the 39-year-old announced on Thursday.

Chhetri has been the face of Indian football for almost a decade and a half and his 94 international goals make him the third highest active international goalscorer after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

“It wasn’t that I felt tired,” Chhetri said in a video he posted on social media.

“When I had the instinct that this should be my last game, I thought about it a lot and finally came to this decision.

“Will I be sad after this? Of course… the boy in me never wants to stop when he gets the chance to play for his country.”

“It’s time for our country to see the next number nine.”

India play against Kuwait and are second to Qatar in Qualifying Group A with four points.

“The game against Kuwait requires pressure, we need the three points to qualify for the next round. “That is extremely important for us,” said the captain.

“But strangely I don’t feel the pressure because these 15 to 20 days with the national team and the game against Kuwait are the last ones,” he added.

He scored a penalty in India’s last game, a 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Afghanistan in March.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) praised the retiring captain in response to his announcement on social media.

“Her legacy on and off the field will always be remembered,” AIFF said in a post on X.

“Thank you @chetrisunil11 for your leadership, dedication and commitment to Indian football.”

Soccer has struggled to gain traction among India’s 1.4 billion people, where the sport’s local following is dwarfed by the country’s long-standing cricket obsession.

Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter once described India as the “sleeping giant” of sport.

India is currently ranked 121st, one place behind Lebanon with 5.5 million people.

“The Giant Who Walked Among Men”

Chhetri is India’s most capped player and has won 150 caps since making his debut against Pakistan in 2005.

Across club and country, his goal tally is 252 in 515 appearances, an average of almost one goal every two games.

Chhetri began his football journey in 2002. In 2009, it was reported that he had signed with English champion club Queens Park Rangers but was unable to accept the contract as he was denied a work permit.

He moved to the Kansas City Wizards in the USA in 2010 and signed with the Portuguese Sporting CP in 2012, where he played for the reserve team of the country’s second division.

In 2022, FIFA honored Chhetri with a documentary film titled Captain Fantastic.

India coach Igor Stimac said in January that Chhetri is welcome to continue his career for as long as he wants.

“We are not putting any pressure on him,” said the Croatian.

Chhetri’s Indian Super League club Bengaluru FC called him a role model for the younger generation.

“He is a real role model for many Indian children who dream of becoming football players.”

“The phases, the faces, the eras and battles – he has been the one constant in all of this,” Bengaluru FC said on X after the announcement.

“He will do it one last time, and we can never be grateful enough to the giant who walked among men.”

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