Sunil Chhetri is one of the prolific footballers to don the national jersey and is lovingly called ‘‘Captain Fantastic’ ‘ by his fans. He has come a long way from being a middle-class kid to becoming an Indian football great. A country that never got anywhere on the football map, is known by one name Happy 37th to Captain, Leader, Legend. He was born in Secundarabad in then Andhra Pradesh, His father was in the Indian Army, while his Sushila had played for the Nepal national football team.
Due to his father profession, he had to travel all across the country but one thing that never changed was his passion for football. He did his schooling from Bahai School, Sikkim and did his graduation from Asutosh College, Kolkata. While growing up, Sunil’s family had to face with a lot of financial trouble and he didn’t have enough money to complete his goals.
Sunil Chhetri started his professional journey with Mohun Bagan Athletic Club of the National Football League post playing with City FC of New Delhi. In his first season in 002-03, he went on to score four goals and the club finished at 7th in the table. In 2003-04 season, Chhetri managed to score only two goals and the club finished at 9th in the table. In his last outing with club, he scored two goals and the club finished at 8th in the table. He also went on represent JCT, Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer. He has been leading the Bengaluru FC from 2013 to 2015. During the 2015 Indian Super League, Chhetri was picked up by Mumbai City for Rs. 1.2 crores, making him the most expensive Indian player at the auctions.
Chhetri is one of the most loved sportsmen in the country and keeps aging like a fine wine. The Indian football captain is the highest goal scorer from the nation, he has scored 74 goals in 118 appearances. He is also the fourth-highest in international football among current footballers. He is only behind Cristiano Ronaldo (109 goals), Ali Makbout of UAE (76) and Lionel Messi (76). Chhetri is one of the most prolific goal scorers in Indian football history and also one who was able to bring changes in other player’s philosophy regarding football. He is currently playing for Bengaluru FC for whom he has scored 58 goals.
While growing up, like other kid in India wanted to become a cricketer but chose football over cricket only because it was a more affordable sport. He used look upto God Of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar but due to his family circumstances couldn’t buy a kit broke his dream. He was quoted saying “I used to steal money from my mom out of desperation.”
Chhetri also added there was an incident in his life which completely changed his life and was quoted saying “My father used to cycle till the bus stop and he used to give me the exact change. And I was a cheat, I sometimes used to keep the money in my pocket and not buy tickets. I used to steal money. I asked my mum, ‘I want 50 bucks’. She said, ‘no chance’. I was so desperate that I stole the 50 bucks. She came to know, of course. She tied me to a chair and gave me the beating of my life for 2 hours. It really shook me. That’s something that really changed things for me. Then I realised that I cannot act like a mischievous, stupid kid.”
This led to make a career in a living out of football and there was no stopping the Blue Tiger thereon. Due to his sheer hard work and dedication led to him been catching the eye of Mohun Bagan scouts in 2002, which followed with the national selectors. “I never thought I would make a living out of football.” Today he earns a whopping Rs 8 lakh (approx.) per match.
The Indian captain has played crucial roles in a number of victories for the country, such as 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, also ensuring India’s qualification in Asia’s premier football tournament for the only third time in history.