Sunil Chhetri has surpassed Messi to become the second-highest active international goalscorer in the world.

India is famous for its cricketing exploits. Though, the country has a huge football loving fan base, still it lies at the bottom of the FIFA rankings at around 100. So it’s quite unnatural for an Indian footballer to grab the international headlines. But, Sunil Chhetri has defied all the odds and has made numerous headlines in his career.

Sunil Chhetri recently became India’s most-capped international footballer. Along with that last Sunday, during the India vs Tajikistan match, he scored 2 goals to grab the coveted title. The highest active international goalscorer in the world is Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo right now – with 88 goals to his name. He leads the list by a massive margin. Chhetri at the second position has 70 goals. Messi has 68 goals.

Football is overshadowed to a large extent by cricket in India. Belonging to such a country where you don’t get your deserved support, Chhetri has done the impossible. Messi is one of the best players to ever enter a football field. He has won the Ballon d’Or a record 5 times. So, breaking someone like Messi’s record and surpassing him, means a lot. Sunil Chhetri is like the King of Indian Football. What he has done for Indian football is absolutely remarkable. He’s one of the few Indian footballers, very few actually, to have made their presence felt on an international platform.

In India’s match against Tajikistan, Chhetri started the scoring by putting a calm ‘Panenka’ penalty into the back of the net. The 34-year-old then kept his nerves and slotted home the ball from Mandar Rao Desai in the 41st minute to give India a 2-0 lead on the brink of half-time. But unfortunately, India lost to Tajikistan by 4-2 due to their terrible defence in the second half. But there’s no denying the fact that it was yet again a masterful performance from the captain Sunil Chhetri.

Sunil Chhetri’s footballing career:

Sunil Chhetri was born on 3rd August 1984 in Secunderabad, India. He is the captain of both the Indian Super League side Bengaluru FC and the Indian national team. He is popularly known as Captain Fantastic. He has scored a record 70 goals in 109 appearances for India. Sunil Chhetri was named an ‘Asian Icon’ by AFC on his 34th birthday.

Chhetri began his professional career at Mohun Bagan in 2002. He moved to JCT a few years later where he scored 21 goals in 48 games. Chhetri then signed for the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer in 2010, becoming the third player from the subcontinent of note to go abroad. However, that stint in the United States did not last long and soon he was back in India’s I-League where he played for Chirag United and Mohun Bagan before going back abroad. This time he was signed by Sporting Clube de Portugal of the Primeira Liga where he played for the club’s reserve side. Now, he is back again in India, breaking and creating records with Bengaluru FC.

Sunil Chhetri helped India win the 2007 Nehru Cup, 2009 Nehru Cup, the 2012 Nehru Cup as well as the 2011 SAFF Championship. He was also one of India’s best players during the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup in which India won the tournament and thus qualified for their first AFC Asian Cup in 27 years. Chhetri has also been named AIFF Player of the Year five times in 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017.

Chhetri has received the Arjuna Award in 2011 by the Government of India in recognition of his outstanding achievement in sports. He was also awarded the Padma Shri award in 2019, India’s fourth-highest civilian award.

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