On November 3, Indian captain Sunil Chhetri became the first football player to win the Major Dhyanchand Khen Ratna award a few days ago. The third highest goal-scorer in international football among active players had a stellar career that spanned 16 years, including multiple individual and team accolades.
The striker played a crucial role in bringing attention towards Indian football with his social media activity. He made his debut against Pakistan in 2005, and went on to represent the Indian national side 125 times since then, scoring 80 goals.
At the club level, he had a stellar career at Bengaluru FC, having made his mark earlier at Dempo, Churchill Brothers, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and a brief stint with Mumbai City FC of the Indian Super League.
He won the I-League on two occasions with Bengaluru, besides winning it one time each with Dempo and Churchill Brothers. After Bengaluru made it to the Superr League, he moved to his beloved club from Mumbai to win the title in 2018/19. He is two goals shy of becoming the all-time leading goalscorer in the ISL history, second only to FC Goa’s superstar Coro.
For the national side, he won the Nehru Cup and SAFF Championship three-times each, and was named most valuable player in the side’s only triumph at the AFC Challenge Cup. A couple of years ago, he was named the first-ever recipient of the “Football Ratna” award.
After he was bestowed with India’s highest sporting honour, the striker said that he was incredibly honoured and thanked all his family members and teammates for driving him through to the top.
“I am thrilled, I am really thankful and honoured. I have always said that it is a dream that I have gone through, and it would not have been possible without my family, teammates and coaches I have played under.
It has been amazing to play for the National team, for so many years, for the number of matches, it has been an outstanding journey,”the 36-year-old said.
Chhetri is gearing for a new season in the ISL with Bengaluru, who will kick-start their season with a clash against Northeast United on November 20.