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Happy birthday Sunil Chhetri! Indian football's 'captain fantastic' turns 36

Indian football captain and one of the most successful footballers from the country Sunil Chhetri is celebrating his 36th birthday today.

India TV Sports Desk India TV Sports Desk
New Delhi Published on: August 03, 2020 11:08 IST
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Image Source : TWITTER/INDIANFOOTBALL

Indian football captain and one of the most successful footballers from the country Sunil Chhetri is celebrating his 36th birthday today.

Sunil Chhetri, one of India's most successful footballers, has turned 36 today. The Indian football captain is the highest goalscorer from the country (72 goals in 115 games) -- and second-highest in international football among current footballers. He remains only behind Portugal's star forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Overall, Chhetri is joint-tenth highest goalscorer in the history of international football for a country and remains only six goals shy of overtaking Brazilian great Pele.

Widely regarded as the most prolific goalscorer in the Indian football history, Chhetri has been Indian football's infallible warrior time and again. The Indian captain played key roles in a number of triumphs for the country, including the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, 2011 SAFF Championships and 2012 Nehru Cup. In the qualifying campaign for the 2019 Asia Cup, Chhetri scored 8 goals, ensuring India's qualification in Asia's premier football tournament for the only third time in history.

Chhetri began his club career with Mohun Bagan in 2002, where he played for three years before moving to JCT in 2005. In the same year, he also made his debut in international football, scoring a goal against Pakistan. 

With time, his reputation continued to grow as he played for clubs like East Bengal and Dempo SC, before he started to garner attention from international clubs like Queens Park Rangers, Celtic and Leeds United among others.

He eventually signed for Major League Soccer side Kansas City Wizards in 2010. However, he returned to India next year before having another stint abroad two years later, when he signed for Portugal's Sporting Lisbon B.

However, one of his most celebrated stints (which continues to date) has been with Bengaluru FC. He joined the side in 2013 - the same year it was established. After being a wayfarer in the Indian football for a long time, he eventually found home in the most unlikely of places. 

Chhetri was central to Bengaluru's initial successes. The club won two I-League titles in 2013-14 and 2016-17 where the Indian forward played pivotal roles. He was also the part of the side which became the first from India to play in a AFC Cup final.

Eventually, he got a chant for himself from the Bengaluru FC's famous West Block Blues - “We’ve got Chhetri, Sunil Chhetri, I just don’t think you understand!”

Even at the age of 36, Chhetri shows no sign of stopping. He continues to age like a fine wine and in an interview, he even said that he aims to play for "3, 4, 5 more years."

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