Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Sunil Chhetri has been the face of Indian football for quite some time now. His reputation as one of the most illustrious football players has been cemented in both India and the world. He has managed to win many matches as well as accolades in his impressive career as both a player and a captain of the Indian football team. On his 39th birthday, let’s explore some of the unknown facts about Chhetri’s illustrious career…

2nd highest goal-scorer in Asia

India captain Sunil Chhetri is the second-highest goal-scorer in Asia. Chhetri’s tally is now a total of 90 goals from 138 matches. Only former Iran footballer Ali Daei from the Asian region has more goals with 109 strikes in 148 matches.

4th highest international goal-scorer

The Indian captain has recently surpassed Mokhtar Dahari of Malaysia (with 89 goals) to climb to the fourth spot among the highest goal-scorers in international football. Argentina World Cup-winning legend Lionel Messi (103 goals), Iran’s retired player Ali Daei (109 goals) and legendary Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo (123) are only ahead of Chhetri in the goal-scoring list.

3rd most goals among active international players

Among the active players, Chhetri has the third-most goals by an international footballer. Only Messi (103 goals) and Cristiano Ronaldo (123 goals) are ahead of the Indian captain.

Record AIFF awards

Chhetri has also broken a record for the most AIFF Player of the Year awards won by an Indian football player. He has won the award a total of seven times - in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2019, and 2022.

1st footballer to get Khel Ratna Award

In 2021, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports awarded Chhetri the highest sporting honour in India - the Khel Ratna Award. He became the first football player to have ever received this prestigious award.

Almost made it to an English football club

Chhetri signed a three-year contract with the English League Championship side Queens Park Rangers in 2009. However, the dream could not materialize as Chhetri was denied a work permit by the British government because India was not in the top 70 of the FIFA World Rankings.

Ist Indian to play Major League Soccer

Chhetri finally got his chance when he was signed for the American club Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer. That made Chhetri the first Indian to play in the league.

Asian Icon

In 2018, the Asian Football Federation, the continental governing body of football in Asia, awarded the title of ‘Asian Icon’ to Chhetri to commemorate his 34th birthday.