‘Retiring as a legend,’ FIFA pays tribute to Chhetri as sporting fraternity joins in salute

Chhetri, who made his international debut in 2005, has scored 94 goals for the country. He will leave the scene as India's all-time top scorer and most-capped player.

ByPTI

Published May 17, 2024 | 9:48 AMUpdatedMay 17, 2024 | 11:49 AM

FIFA shared a graphic-generated photo of Sunil Chhetri sharing the podium with football superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the three leading active international goal-scorers. (FIFA/X)

Football’s world governing body FIFA led the outpouring of tributes that came in from different quarters following talismanic Indian captain Sunil Chhetri’s decision to retire from international football.

Chhetri, the long-serving national team captain announced his decision to call it a day after the FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait in Kolkata on 6 June.

“Retiring as a legend,” captioned FIFA World Cup in its ‘X’ handle to a graphic-generated photo of Chhetri sharing the podium with world football superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the three leading active international goal-scorers.

Ronaldo (128 goals) is seen on the top of the podium, while Messi (106) and Chhetri (94) take the next two spots.

FIFA had earlier in 2022 released a documentary on the long-serving Indian captain, titled ‘Captain Fantastic’; it had three parts— kick-off, mid-game and extra time.

Sportspersons applaud Chhetri

Batting maestro Virat Kohli, 2011 World Cup hero Yuvraj Singh and former star footballer Bhaichung Bhutia were among the leading sports personalities who lauded Chhetri’s achievements.

Commenting on Chhetri’s video post on Instagram, Kohli wrote for his good friend: “My brother. Proud.”

Yuvraj called him a legend, saying the legacy of the 39-year-old veteran of 150 national appearances will remain for a very long time.

“A real legend of the game who took Indian football onto the global stage. Your passion has inspired a generation to take up the game… your legacy in Indian sports will be remembered forever…you can look back with pride as you get set for your final game, thank you legend,” wrote Yuvraj in an Instagram story.

Chhetri, who made his international debut in 2005, has scored 94 goals for the country. He will leave the scene as India’s all-time top scorer and most-capped player.

Legendary India forward Bhutia, who Chhetri succeeded as captain, told PTI that it was a great loss for Indian football.

“Sunil, no doubt, will go down as one of the greatest players India had ever produced. His contribution to Indian football is immense. It’s a great loss for Indian football,” said Bhutia, the former India captain.

“I am fortunate to have played with him as senior player. When I came in (I M) Vijayan was senior to me, after that Sunil (Chhetri) came. I am fortunate to have served Indian football in between two stalwarts of Indian football,” added Bhutia.

Cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal, member of the India squad for the T20 World Cup, wished Chhetri a “happy retirement”.

Also Read: Sunil Chhetri to retire after World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait on 6 June

‘My Captain’

“What a run you have had! Congratulations on an amazing career,” wrote Chahal on ‘X’, while Chhetri’s Bengaluru FC and India team-mate, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, wished he could change his compatriot’s mind.

“Never wanted to see this happen, I wish I could do something to change your mind but I also understand why it is happening bhai. The whole country needs to celebrate your international career on the 6th of June the way you deserve. My Captain,” Sandhu wrote on ‘X’.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) said Chhetri will continue to motivate the coming generations.

“Your legacy on and off-the-field will always be remembered! You have always been and will continue to inspire us. Thank you.”

BCCI termed Chhetri a “phenomenal icon”, saying his “career has been nothing short of extraordinary and you have been a phenomenal icon for Indian football and Indian sports,” while India spinner Kuldeep Yadav congratulated the legend on a “fantastic career”.

IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bengaluru saluted the No. 11 jersey, saying, “What a ride this has been, skipper! 94 international goals, so many laurels, an unbroken conviction and you’ve inspired so many young Indians to dream big. Happy farewell to the No.11 (No.9) but India’s 1,” wrote RCB on ‘X’.

(Disclaimer: The headline, subheads, and intro of this report along with the photos may have been reworked by South First. The rest of the content is from a syndicated feed, and has been edited for style.)