'My Brother, Proud': Virat Kohli Leads Messages To Sunil Chhetri After Football Legend's Decision To Retire

(MENAFN- AsiaNet News) Legendary footballer Sunil Chhetri on Thursday announced his decision to retire from international football following the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifying match against Kuwait on June 6, marking the conclusion of an unparalleled career in Indian football known for its longevity and consistency. The esteemed national team captain conveyed his decision through a video shared across his social media platforms.

Chhetri, who entered the international arena in 2005, leaves behind a remarkable legacy with 94 goals for his country. As India's all-time leading scorer and most-capped player, his impact on the field is unparalleled.

Among active players, he ranks third in goals scored, trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Additionally, he holds the fourth position in the all-time list of international goal-scorers.

At 39, Chhetri bids farewell to the international stage after nearly two decades of dedicated service. Standing at 5'7", he carried the weight of expectations for the team, consistently delivering whenever he donned the blue jersey.

"The match Against Kuwait is the last," Chhetri said while announcing his decision.

The 39-year-old icon's decision prompted an outpouring of #HappyRetirementLegend messages across various social media platforms, spearheaded notably by his close friend and cricket legend, Virat Kohli. Reacting to Chhetri's Instagram post, Kohli expressed his sentiments, stating, "My brother. Proud."

Here's a glimpse at some of the reactions to this significant announcement:

Chhetri's farewell match will take place at the iconic Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, a fitting conclusion to his journey in a city where he has honed his skills and emerged as a formidable striker.

Currently occupying the second spot in Group A with four points, India trails behind leaders Qatar.

In March, Chhetri celebrated his 150th national appearance by scoring against Afghanistan in Guwahati, albeit in a disappointing 1-2 defeat for India.

Reflecting on his illustrious career, Chhetri fondly recalls his international debut against Pakistan in 2005, where he found the net, marking it as a cherished moment in his journey to becoming one of the game's most lethal strikers.

"There is one day that I never forget and remember it quite often is the first time I played for my country man, it was unbelievable.
But the day before, morning of the day, Sukhi sir (Sukhwinder Singh), my first national team coach, in the morning he came to me and he's like, you're going to start? I can't tell you how I was feeling man," Chhetri recalled.

He added, "I took my jersey, I sprayed some perfume on it, I have no idea why. So that day, everything that happened, once he told me, from breakfast to lunch and to 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 about the future of Indian football, Chettri emphasized the need for the country to groom the next generation of number 9 players. He expressed concern over the current lack of main strikers among the national team's players, noting that none of them hold such roles in their respective club teams. This gap, he believes, poses a significant challenge for the current national team.

In reflecting on his own career, Chhetri acknowledged that he could sense the approaching end of his illustrious journey in recent times.

"You know the feeling that I recollect in the last 19 years is a very nice combination between duty, pressure and immense joy. I never thought individually, these are the many games that I'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, I did it and it was very strange. I did it because probably I was going towards the decision that this game, this next game is going to be my last," he said.

"And the moment I told myself first, that yes, this is the game that is going to be my last, is when I started recollecting everything.
It was so strange, I started thinking about this game, that game, this coach, that coach, that team, that member, that ground, that away match, this good game, that bad game, all my individual performances, everything came, all the flashes came. So when I did decide that this is it, this is going to be my last game," Chhetri added.

Chhetri's illustrious career boasts numerous successes, including leading India to victory in the Nehru Cup (2007, 2009, 2012) and the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship (2011, 2015, 2021).

His pivotal role in India's triumph in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, securing qualification for the AFC Asian Cup after 27 years, stands as a testament to his impact on the national team.

Originating from Secunderabad, Chhetri began his club career with Mohun Bagan in 2002. He later ventured abroad, joining Major League Soccer team Kansas City Wizards in 2010 and Sporting CP's reserve team in the Portuguese football league in 2012.

Throughout his career, Chhetri has represented prominent Indian clubs, including East Bengal (2008-2009), Dempo (2009-2010), and Indian Super League sides Mumbai City FC (2015-2016) and Bengaluru FC.

Bengaluru FC holds a special place in Chhetri's club football journey, where he experienced significant success, clinching titles such as the I-League (2014 and 2016), ISL (2019), and Super Cup (2018). He notably led Bengaluru FC to the AFC Cup final in 2016.

Ahead of his 150th appearance for the Blue Tigers in the World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan in Guwahati, Chhetri received a heartfelt felicitation, acknowledging his remarkable contribution to Indian football.


AsiaNet News

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