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Unknown Facts About Sunil Chhetri: India's Football Sensation"

Unknown Facts About Sunil Chhetri: India's Football Sensation"
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One of the greatest Indian footballers of all time, Sunil Chhetri is the third-highest international goalscorer among active players, only behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. 

Also India’s all-time top goal-scorer, and joint fifth-highest goal-scorer of all time in the world. 

Chhetri is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the Arjuna Award – India’s second-highest sporting honor, the Padma Shri - India's fourth-highest civilian award, and the Khel Ratna Award - India's highest sporting honor.

He is also the first footballer to receive the Khel Ratna. 

Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri was born to Nepalese-origin footballer parents on August 3, 1984, in Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana).

He studied at Bahai School in Gangtok, Bethany’s in Darjeeling, Loyola School in Kolkata, and Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan in New Delhi.

Chhetri took admission at Ashutosh College in Kolkata but gave up his studies when he was in Class 12 after getting a chance to represent India at the Asian School Championships in Malaysia in October 2001.

He has played for ten different clubs so far with the first being Delhi-based City Club, whom he joined as a 17-year-old. He has also represented Delhi in the Santosh Trophy.

He started by playing for the Mohun Bagan AC and regularly scored goals for the club.

In 2005, he was signed by JCT FC, where he emerged as a valuable player. He scored seven goals in the inaugural edition of the I-League, helping his team secure third place.

Chhetri was signed by East Bengal FC in 2008 and scored in his debut match for the club against Chirag United, in September, the same year He made a total of 14 appearances for the club and scored 9 goals.

On May 22, 2009, he was signed by Dempo SC. The contract had a clause that permitted him to leave for trials abroad in the future if he wanted to.

On August 2009, it was reported that he signed a three-year contract with the English football club Queens Park Rangers but wasn't allowed a work permit by the British Government, as India was not in the top 70 of the FIFA World Rankings.

Chhetri went international on March 24, 2010, when he signed for the American club Kansas City Wizards, becoming the third Indian to play outside South Asia and the first Indian to play Major League Soccer.

On February 2013, he was loaned by Churchill Brothers and debuted against Kitchee in the AFC Cup. He played for the club in the I-League, helping them win the tournament.

He was the top scorer for India in the 2007 Nehru Cup and helped the team win the tournament with 4 goals.

In the 2008 SAFF Championship, he scored 2 goals for India and later he became the captain of the national team for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup Qualification.

Let's take a look at the 10 lesser-known facts about the captain of the Indian Football Team and Indian Super League club Bengaluru.

1. Most capped Indian player

Chhetri, who made his international debut against Pakistan in Quetta at the age of 20 in 2005, is India’s most-capped player with 131 appearances. In 2012, he became the permanent captain of the Indian national team.

2. Most international hat tricks by an Indian

Sunil Chhetri is the only Indian player to score an international hat-trick thrice. The first one came against Tajikistan in 2008, followed by the second one against Vietnam in 2010, and a third in 2018 against Chinese Taipei. 

Additionally, he has also scored the most hat tricks by an Indian in the ISL (2).

3. Only Indian player to play on three different continents

Chhetri is the only Indian player to have played on three different continents - Asia, Europe (Sporting Clube de Portugal), and North America (Kansas City Wizards). 

In 2010, he made a 21-minute appearance in the second half of Wizard's 2-1 win over Manchester United in an international friendly in Kansas City. Chhetri came in for Teal Bunbury in the 69th minute.

4. Top Indian goal-scorer in the ISL

Chhetri is the all-time highest Indian goal scorer in the ISL and overall the second-highest goal scorer in the league's history with 51 goals. 

Jeje Lalpekhlua is the second-highest Indian goal-scorer with 24 goals.

5. Top Indian goal-scorer in the I-League

With 90 goals, Chhetri is the all-time highest Indian goal scorer in I-League history. He is followed by Bhaichung Bhutia (89 goals) and RC Prakash (49 goals).

6. He has won the AIFF Player of the Year award a record seven times

Chhetri has won the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year award a record seven times - in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2019, and 2022. 

7. Asian Icon

In 2018, on his 34th birthday, Chhetri was conferred with the title of 'Asian Icon’ by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the game’s continental governing body.

8. A part of the prestigious Forbes list

Chhetri was ranked No. 100 on the 2017 Forbes India Celebrity 100 list. In 2019, he was ranked 85th on the same list. 

As per Forbes, Chhetri’s earnings in 2019 were close to Rs 6.1 crore. As per knowledge, the striker has a net worth of Rs 7 crore.

9. Played for four top Indian clubs

Sunil Chhetri had played for four top Indian clubs before his first international stint, for Kansas City Wizards in the United States started. The clubs were – Mohun Bagan, JCT, East Bengal, and Dempo. 

10. Sunil Chhetri has a beautiful love story

Not many people know about the beautiful love story of the Indian striker, who met his lady love when he was 18 and she was 15. 

Sonam Bhattacharya, Chhetri’s wife, was the daughter of his coach, Subrata Bhattacharya. Having fallen in love with his coach’s daughter, Chhetri dated his lady love for over a decade before marrying her.

11. He has won many matches for team India

Sunil Chhetri, with his unforgettable performance, has secured many victories for India. 

The 2007, 2009, and 2012 Nehru Cup, the 2011, 2015, and 2021 SAFF Championship, as well as the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, were all won due to the contributions of Chhetri. Since 2021, he has been the captain of the Indian football team.

Conclusion

As the all-time top scorer for the national team, Chhetri's contributions have inspired a generation of young footballers. Sunil Chhetri's journey extends beyond being a remarkable football player. He stands as a true ambassador of the sport and an icon for India's youth.

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