Football

Sunil Chhetri Retires: World Unites To Say Goodbye To The 'Asian Football Icon'

With 94 goals, Chhetri retired as the fourth-highest in the all-time list of goal-scorers in international football behind Cristiano Ronaldo (128), Ali Daei (108) and Lionel Messi (106)

Indias captain Sunil Chhetri with his wife Sonam Bhattacharya and other family members being felicitated as he retires from international football. PTI Photo
India's captain Sunil Chhetri with his wife Sonam Bhattacharya and other family members being felicitated as he retires from international football, after a FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier football match between India and Kuwait, at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (Salt Lake Stadium), in Kolkata. PTI Photo/Swapan Mahapatra
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The world on Thursday united to bid adieu to Sunil Chhetri with the global governing body FIFA and the Croatian great Luca Modric joining legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar in making the Indian football icon's farewell truly international. (As It Happened | Match Report)

The 39-year-old retired as international football's fourth most prolific scorer with 94 goals from 151 matches. It is an incredible feat for a player whose country is still struggling to find its footing in world football.

In his final outing in the blue jersey, India were held to a goalless draw by Kuwait in the 2026 World Cup Qualifier in Kolkata.

"After 19 years of service, farewell, @chetrisunil11," FIFA posted on X moments after the match at the packed Salt Lake Stadium.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) tweeted, "94 International Goals. Carried the hopes of a nation! Thank You Asian Football Icon, Sunil Chhetri."

Congratulating Chhetri on his glorious career, Indian cricket icon Tendulkar wrote on X: "No goal is easy to achieve. Let alone 94 international ones. You've held the flag high, Sunil Chhetri. Congratulations on a remarkable career!"

Premier League India wrote on the social media platform, "Every football fan today. We cannot replace him. We cannot."

Former India hockey captain Viren Rasquinha also praised Chhetri for his remarkable career.

"I think what makes Sunil Chhetri a legend is not just the goals he scored for India and the longevity of his career. It's also his teamwork, never-say-die attitude, work ethic & leadership. But most importantly, his role model behaviour. We need more Sunil Chhetri's in Indian Sport," Rasquinha tweeted.

"Having said all the nice things about Chhetri, I'm really worried about Indian football. That was a painful 90 mins to watch. We were slow, uninspiring, and barely had a shot at the Kuwait goal. Struggling to string 4 passes together. Plenty of introspection needed for a game we all love," he added.

On the night, all the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises also paid tributes to Chhetri, hailing him as the king of Indian football.

Earlier in the day, Croatia captain and Real Madrid superstar Modric hailed Chhetri, who brought the curtains down on his stellar career with the match against Kuwait in Kolkata on Thursday, as a "legend of the game".

In a video message shared by the Indian team's coach Igor Stimac, Modric said, "Hi Sunil, I just want to say hello and wish you all the best in your last game for the national team."

"Congratulations on your career, you are a legend of this game and to your teammates, I hope you make his last game special and unforgettable," said Modric, the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner.

"Good luck and win for your captain. All the best and best regards from Croatia," said Modric who finished runner-up in the 2018 World Cup and grabbed the bronze medal in 2022.

With 94 goals, Chhetri retired as the fourth-highest in the all-time list of goal-scorers in international football behind Cristiano Ronaldo (128), Ali Daei (108) and Lionel Messi (106).

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