Indians who grew up in the 80s and 90s did not have an Indian football figure to idolise. By that, I don’t mean to say that our players from that time were not talented, but football wasn’t a priority in India and it was always a game one turned to Europe for.
In the 2000s, things started changing and now we have many players making a mark, and one of them standing out for a very obvious reason: He is the best. He is our best. Captain Sunil Chhetri’s biggest contribution, in my opinion, is that he made Indians turn to India for quality football. But it never hurts to look at some numbers, so here you go.
1. He is the first and the only Indian to score international goals in 3 different decades.
The first time he scored for India was back in 2007 against Cambodia. Then in 2010, he scored the first goal of the last decade and it was against Vietnam. This was followed by a series of strikes that led him to his recent 2-goal exploit against Bangladesh in the World Cup 2022 qualifier.
2. He has surpassed Lionel Messi and stands behind only Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of the number of international goals.
He achieved the feat in the aforementioned game against Bangladesh.
3. In December 2020, he became the first Indian to directly contribute to 50 ISL goals with 42 goals and 8 assists.
4. He has made the most number of appearances for India among all footballers, active or retired.
117, followed by Bhaichung Bhutia’s 107.
5. He is the only Indian player to have participated in games in 3 different continents.
6. He is the only Indian to sign for 3 foreign football clubs.
Namely, Kansas City Wizards, Sporting Lisbon and Queens Park Rangers.
7. The Indian footballer with the most number of hattricks.
They came against Tajikistan, Vietnam, and Chinese Taipei in 2008, 2010, and 2018 respectively. India won all 3 games.
8. He has the most number of ISL goals for any Indian, which is 47.
9. He has scored the most number of goals for the country.
74 and counting.
10. He has scored the most number of hat-tricks by any Indian player in the ISL.
He has achieved the feat two times.