Sunday, May 19, 2024

Chhetri hangs boots, match against Kuwait to be his last


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New Delhi, May 16: The iconic Sunil Chhetri on Thursday announced his decision to retire from international football after the FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait on June 6, bringing the curtains down on a career that is unparalleled in Indian football for its longevity and consistency.
The long-serving national team captain announced his decision via a video he posted on his social media accounts.
Chhetri, who made his debut in 2005, has scored 94 goals for the country. He will leave the scene as India’s all-time top scorer and most-capped player.
He is also third in the list of goal scorers among active players behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and currently sits as the fourth in the all-time list of international goal-scorers as well.
Chhetri, 39, will walk into international sunset after rendering yeoman service for nearly two decades, 19 years to be precise, to a team that was heavily reliant on the 5’7” forward to deliver the goods every time he wore the blue jersey.
“The match Against Kuwait is the last,” Chhetri said while announcing his decision.
Chhetri’s final match will be played at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, and it is appropriate that he will end his journey in a city, where he has played a lot of his football while evolving into a potent striker.
India are currently second in Group A with four points, behind leaders Qatar.
Chhetri had made his 150th national appearance in March and scored on the occasion against Afghanistan in Guwahati. India, though, stunningly lost that game 1-2.
On his international debut against Pakistan way back in 2005, Chhetri, who would go on to become one of the game’s most lethal strikers, scored, and he rated it as his best moment.
“There is one day that I never forget and remember it quite often is the first time I played for my country man, it was unbelievable.
“But the day before, morning of the day, Sukhi sir (Sukhwinder Singh), my first national team coach, in the morning he came to me and he’s like, you’re going to start? I can’t tell you how I was feeling man,” Chhetri recalled.
He added, “I took my jersey, I sprayed some perfume on it, I have no idea why. So that day, everything that happened, once he told me, from breakfast to lunch and to the game and to my first goal in my debut, to conceding late in the 80th minute, that day is probably that I will never forget and is one of the best days of my national team journey.” Speaking on the future of Indian football, Chettri said that it was time for the country to find the next 9. He felt the team is currently handicapped as none of the current lot of players play as the main striker for their respective clubs and sees the massive hole in the current national team. (PTI)


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