Long-serving Indian football captainSunil Chhetri announces retirement
   Date :17-May-2024

Sunil Chhetri
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 alltime top scorer and mostcapped 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 hehasplayedalotofhisfootball while evolving into a potent striker. India are currently second in Group A with four points, behindleadersQatar.Chhetri had made his 150th national appearance in March and scoredontheoccasionagainst Afghanistan in Guwahati. India,though,stunninglylost that game 1-2. Onhisinternationaldebut against Pakistan way back in 2005,Chhetri,whowouldgo 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 playedformycountry man, it was unbelievable. “Butthedaybefore,morning of the day, Sukhi sir (SukhwinderSingh),my first national team coach, in the morning he came to me and he’slike,you’regoingtostart? I can’ttell you howI was feeling man,” Chhetri recalled. He added, “I took my jersey, I sprayed some perfume on it, I have no idea why.
So thatday,everythingthathappened,oncehetoldme,from breakfastto lunchandto 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 thatitwas time forthe country to find the next 9. He felt the team is currently handicapped as none of the currentlot of players play as the mainstrikerfortheirrespective clubs and sees the massive hole in the current national team. In recent times, Chhetri said he could sense that he washeadingtowardstheend of his glorious journey. “You know the feeling that I recollectin the last 19 years is a very nice combination between duty, pressure and immensejoy.Ineverthought individually, these are the many games thatI’ve played for the country, this is what I’ve done, good or bad, but now I did it.
“This last one and a half, two months,Idid it and it was very strange.Idid it becauseprobablyIwasgoing towardsthedecisionthatthis game,thisnextgameisgoing to be my last.” The moment he had arrivedatthedecision,memories came flooding back to his mind. “And the moment I told myself first, that yes, this is the game that is going to be my last,iswhenI startedrecollecting everything. “It was so strange, I startedthinking aboutthis game, that game, this coach, that coach,thatteam,that member, that ground, that away match, this good game, that bad game, all my individual performances, everything came, all the flashes came. SowhenIdiddecidethatthis is it, this is going to be my last game.” His familymembers reacted differently to his big decision.