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Sunil Chhetri announces retirement: A Look Back at the Indian Football Icon's Record-Breaking Career

Sunil Chhetri, India's football legend, announces retirement! Read about his illustrious career - most goals, most appearances, and a glorious journey with the Blue Tigers. Don't miss his final game on June 6th!

Moinak Banerjee
Last updated: 16.05.2024
Sunil Chhetri announces retirement

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The day Indian football fans long dreaded has arrived as Sunil Chhetri has called on his retirement from international football aged 39. The Bengaluru FC player will don the Blue Tigers jersey for the last time on June 6, 2024, in the FIFA 2026 World Cup Qualifiers match against Kuwait at Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata. Record-breaker for the men’s national team, Chhetri is undoubtedly one of the greatest footballers to play for India. He has been the best player of his generation and won multiple laurels on the South Asian stage.


It has been an unforgettable journey for Chhetri since his senior team debut against Pakistan in 2005. He steadily became an Indian football icon and was instrumental in scoring vital goals for the national side at the time of asking. Chhetri’s determination to play for India and even showing the same stamina and work ethic at this age made him a standout player. That helped in his longevity on the international stage but the number nine has now decided to hang up his boot for the fans to soak his brilliant tenure.


Most appearances

Sunil made his 150th appearance in the last game for India against Afghanistan in March, reaching another landmark in his career. The striker already boasts the record of being the most-capped player in India’s men’s national team history. At least, 62 more than Baichung Bhutia who comes second in the list. He has led the side 87 times and will retire as captain.


All-time top goalscorer

Chhetri tops the scoring list for India with 94 goals in the bag and became the first-ever Indian footballer to hit the 50-goal mark on the international stage. Most were match-winners and strikes in the final helping the Blue Tigers land silverware. His highest-scoring year came in 2011 when he managed 13 goals in 18 matches. Chhetri is also the top scorer in the SAFF Championship with 23 goals. The player has also scored the most goals for India in AFC Asian Cup with four in three tournament appearances.

Third most active goalscorer in the world

Not only that, the marksman is the fourth-most goalscorer in world football. Remarkably, he is just behind two global icons of the sport Cristiano Ronaldo (128) and Lionel Messi (108) as the third-highest active scorer. Chhetri being on this list among the powerhouses is a source of great pride for the country which ranks below 120 in football. He is also the second-highest goalscorer in Asian football history and has the most goals as an active player.

Milestone strikes

Chhetri also poses a unique record of scoring in every milestone appearance beginning with his goal in his senior team debut. He went to score in his 10th, 20th, 25th, 50th, 100th, 125th and 150th appearances, the last one coming from the spot. The 151st cap will be his last, and he will be hoping to finish his international career with his name on the scoresheet, just as he started it.  

Most hat-tricks for Indian football team

‘Captain Fantastic’ is the only Indian player to score four hat-tricks for the men’s national team. All the other hat-trick scorers in Indian international football history have made the feat only once. Chhetri’s most memorable three-goal haul in a match was the first time he did so against Tajikistan in the 4-1 AFC Challenge Cup 2008 final win. A fitting way to help India qualify for their third Asian Cup and the first since 1984. His most recent one came in the massive 4-0 victory against Pakistan in the SAFF Championship last year.     

Elusive career

Chhetri recieving Arjuna Award
Chhetri recieving Arjuna Award

Chhetri with Khel Ratna Award
Chhetri with Khel Ratna Award

Such magnitude of success is bound to give rewards and Sunil Chhetri earned plenty. His achievements will be hard to emulate and Indian football might not even find an ideal replacement for him. Chhetri dazzled with the team and individually by winning the SAFF Championship four times, the Nehru Cup three times and the Intercontinental Cup twice. He was named the AIFF Player of the Year seven times alongside winning the Arjuna award, Khel Ratna and the Padma Shri.

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