Sunil Chhetri announces retirement from international football

Indian star clinched the AIFF Player of the Year award seven times

By Web Desk
May 16, 2024
Chhetri’s last match will be India’s FIFA World Cup qualifier match against Kuwait in Kolkata on June 6. - AIFF

Indian’s legendary footballer Sunil Chhetri brought the curtain down on his international career on Thursday.

Chhetri’s last match will be India’s FIFA World Cup qualifier match against Kuwait in Kolkata on June 6.

The 39-year-old played his first international match against Pakistan in 2005 and netted his maiden international goal on his senior debut.

During his 19-year career, Chhetri made 150 appearances for his country and scored 94 goals, which ranks him fourth in the all-time top international goal scorer’s list behind legendary names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Ali Daei and Lionel Messi.

“You know, the feeling that I recollect in the last 19 years is a very nice combination of duty, pressure and immense joy,” Sunil Chhetri said in an emotional address on social media.

“I never thought individually these are the many games that I 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.

“I did it because probably I was going towards the decision that this game (against Kuwait), this next game is going to be my last. And the moment I told myself first that this is the game that’s going to be my last, was when I started recollecting everything. It was so strange.”

Chhetri was instrumental in India’s win in the Nehru Cup (2007, 2009, 2012) as well as the SAFF Championship (2011, 2015, 2021).

The striker also featured in India’s 2008 AFC Challenge Cup victory, which helped them qualify for the first AFC Asian Cup (2011) after 27 years. He also led the Indian men’s team since 2012.

“It’s not that I was feeling tired. When the instinct came that it should be my last game, that I thought about it a lot. And eventually, I came to this decision. So will I be sad after this? Of course. Do I feel sad sometimes, every day because of this? Yes. Yes, it took time because this kid inside, he never wants to stop. If given a chance to play for his country, never,” Chhetri stated in the video.

Chhetri also clinched the AIFF Player of the Year award seven times, with the latest coming in 2021-22. He is also the most-capped football player of all time for the Indian national team.