Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Sunil Chhetri: Indian football icon announces retirement from sport – BBC


Chettri, 39, has played for India for 19 years
Indian football icon and captain of the national team, Sunil Chhetri, has announced his decision to retire from international football on 6 June.
In a video posted on X, he said that India's World Cup qualification match against Kuwait would be his last game.
"One last game… for all our sakes…let's win the game and we can depart, happily," he said in the video.
Chhetri, 39, has played for the country for 19 years, having scored his first goal during his debut match in 2005.
He is among the country's most celebrated players, credited with shining a spotlight on Indian football nationally and internationally, amidst a cricket-centric culture.
Indian footballer in same league as Messi and Ronaldo
At the moment, he holds the record of being the third-highest scorer of international goals among active footballers, after Argentina's Lionel Messi and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo.
In the nine-minute-51-second-long video post on X, Chhetri reminisced about the high and low points in his long career and expressed grief over his decision.
"The kid inside will probably keep fighting to play football, but the sensible, mature player and person knows that this is it," he said. "But it wasn't easy," he added.
Tributes have been pouring in on X, with many fans expressing their gratitude for his contribution to Indian football.
"'End of an era' is sometimes used loosely in sport, but for Indian Football, doesn't get truer than this. Sunil Chhetri – captain, leader, legend – announces retirement," one fan said.
"An all-time legend of Indian football," wrote another.
Fans and experts say that his longevity in international football, along with his work ethic, are the key factors behind Chhetri's success.
In India, he has won several football awards, including the Arjuna Award – the country's second-highest sporting award – and the Padma Shri, India's fourth-highest civilian award.
On the global stage, he has led the team to victory in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup, the South Asian Football Federation Championship, the Intercontinental Cup and more.
Chhetri, who is known to follow a strict diet and workout regimen, told the BBC in a previous interview about the "small sacrifices" he makes.
"It's all about what I eat and how much I sleep. For the kind of good life that I have got by God's grace, it's not a big deal to go for the broccolis rather than the biryani – as I know there will be enough time for such indulgences once I am done with the game," he said.
Now that Chhetri has hung up his boots, a question that's sure to plague fans and players alike will be "After Chhetri, who?"
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