Sunil Chhetri is one of India’s most prolific players, and his admirers affectionately refer to him as “Captain Fantastic.” From being a middle-class boy to being an Indian football legend, he has gone a long way.
Chhetri, along with Lionel Messi, is the second-highest active international goalscorer, trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo, and the fifth-highest all-time. He holds the record for most caps and goals scored in India’s history.
Here are some Captain Fantastic facts:
• Chhetri started his professional career in 2002 with Mohun Bagan, then moved to JCT, where he scored 21 goals in 48 games. In 2010, he signed with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer, becoming the third player from the subcontinent to do so.
• He returned to India’s I-League, where he played for Chirag United and Mohun Bagan before returning to Portugal to play for Sporting CP’s reserve side in the Primeira Liga.
• With 80 goals in 125 games, Sunil Chettri is the second-highest goalscorer in international football.
He holds the record for most caps for Team India.
He was the first Indian player to play for the Kansas City Wizard in Major League Soccer (MLS).
The most AIFF Men’s Player of the Year awards have gone to Sunil Chhetri.
• Chhetri has also won the AIFF Player of the Year award six times, which is a record.
• Sunil Chhetri is the current player with the greatest goals per match ratio in international football.
• Chhetri got the Arjuna Award for excellent sporting accomplishment in 2011 and the Padma Shri Award, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 2019. He got India’s top sporting honour, the Khel Ratna Award, in 2021, becoming the first footballer to do so.
• Sunil Chhetri was born in Secunderabad, India, on August 3, 1984, to K. B. Chhetri, an officer in the Indian Army’s Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, and Sushila Chhetri. His father was a member of the Indian Army football squad, and his mother and twin sisters were members of the Nepal women’s national team. Chhetri began playing football at an early age and has competed in numerous events.
• As a kid, he wanted to be a cricketer like any other kid in India, but he picked football over cricket because it was a more economical sport. He idolised Sachin Tendulkar, the God of Cricket, but was unable to get a kit owing to financial constraints.
• The Indian captain has been an integral part in the country’s victories in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, 2011 SAFF Championships, and 2012 Nehru Cup. Chhetri scored eight goals in the 2019 Asia Cup qualifying campaign, sealing India’s qualification for the only third time in history in Asia’s premier football tournament.