Football

How Well Do You Know Sunil Chhetri: 10 Facts Most Indians Didn't Know About National Team Captain

Indian football’s national team skipper Sunil Chettri is the only footballer to receive the prestigious Khel Ratna Award by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport.

X | Sunil Chhetri
Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri. Photo: X | Sunil Chhetri
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India's legendary Sunil Chhetri has called time on his wonderful international career as he announced his decision to walk into his international sunset after India’s FIFA World Cup qualifying game against Kuwait on June 6. (More Football News)

In this article, let us find out the interesting facts about India’s national team captain:

1. Chhetri has won AIFF Player of the Year award seven times

Sunil Chhetri was a born history maker, crushing records since his early days. He also has broken the record for the most AIFF Player of the Year awards won by an Indian with a whopping seven in his bag. Chhetri won the award in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2019 and 2022. 

2. Only footballer to receive Khel Ratna Award

Indian football national team skipper Sunil Chettri is the only footballer to receive the prestigious Khel Ratna Award by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport. The 39-year-old received it in the year 2021.

3. Most capped player in India 

Sunil Chhetri made his national team debut in 2005 against Pakistan where he also scored his first-ever India goal. In an almost two-decade long career, Chhetri has 145 caps for India so far.

4. Third-highest active goal scorer 

Among active goal scorers, India’s Sunil Chhettri is just behind Cristiano Ronaldo (128) and Lionel Messi (108) in the goal-scoring ladder. He has netted 93 goals for the national side.

5. Football, forever

Sunil Chettri was born to play football. He also aged with genuine love for the sport as he mother played football in Nepal and father featured for the Army team. 

6. Chhetri’s England Chance

According to several reports, Sunil Chhetri had signed for English club Queens Park Rangers back in 2009. However, the contract did not go through and he was denied a work permit because India were not in the Top 70 of the FIFA Rankings. 

7. First Indian To Play in Major League Soccer

Sunil Chhetri became the first Indian to play Major League Soccer after Kansas City Wizards acquired his services back in 2010.

8. Love Story

Sunil Chhetri married his childhood sweetheart, Sonam Bhattacharya. Sonam was the daughter of his coach, Subrata Bhattacharya. They dated for over a decade before tying the knot in 2017.

9. Asian Inspiration

In 2018, the continental governing body of football in Asia, the Asian Football Federation awarded the title “Asian Icon” to Sunil Chhetri.

10. Serial Indian winner

Sunil Chhetri has been the face and hope of Indian football for a long time. His contributions have an astronomical value and has helped India secure many wins. He helped India win the Nehru Cup in 2007, 2009 and 2012 and 2011, 2015, 2021 and 2023 SAFF Championships.

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