By Elton Gomes
The Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri led India to victory in the Intercontinental Cup and became the second highest goal scorer in international football after scoring two goals in the final against Kenya. Chhetri shares the spot with Argentine talisman Lionel Messi.
Chhetri entered the Intercontinental Cup final with 62 goals to his name. In Sunday’s final match against Kenya, Chhetri struck in the eighth and 29th minute, equaling Messi’s tally of 64 goals.
The torchbearer of Indian football, Chhetri has scored 0.62 goals per match while Messi has scored 0.52. Chhetri’s goal average surpasses that of Christiano Ronaldo as well, who has an average of 0.54 goals per match.
Chhetri has been instrumental in India’s performance in the inaugural edition of the Intercontinental Cup 2018. The Indian captain got off to a flying start after scoring a hat-trick in India’s 5-0 victory over Chinese Taipei.
India at the Intercontinental Cup
After defeating Chinese Taipei 5-0 in the opening game of the tournament, hosts India faced Kenya in their second match of the cup. Chhetri urged all Indians to come and watch them play against Kenya. The India captain’s heartfelt message went viral, and India defeated Kenya 3-0 in a packed Mumbai Football Arena.
Chhetri found himself on the scoresheet again in the match against New Zealand, but the hosts lost the game 2-1.
The man who won a million hearts
The diminutive striker was born in Secunderabad and began his career with Mohun Bagan. Due to restirctions in place by the United Kingdom government, Chhetri could not play for the Queens Park Rangers, a deal he had scored.
In March 2010, Chhetri became the first Indian to play for a Major League Soccer side after it was confirmed that he would be joining Kansas City Wizards. After America, Chhetri’s next stop was Europe. In 2012, Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon signed the skipper to play in their reserve team. With sufficient footballing experience in his pocket, Chhetri returned to India and joined Mumbai FC in the 2015 edition of the Indian Super League. While playing for Mumbai FC, the striker became the first Indian to score a hat-trick in the league.
Nicknamed the “Flash,” Chhetri’s footballing prowess has garnered praise from his teammates. Udanta Kumam Singh says he is privileged to be in the same dressing room as Chhetri, “I feel privileged to share the dressing room with Chhetri-bhai both at the Club level as well as the National Team. He has been my idol and for so many youngsters.” Singh added, “At the end of the day we learn from our seniors and that comes best when you are playing alongside someone like him.”
The AIFF (All India Football Federation) has also recognised Chhetri’s contribution to Indian football. The body is all set to recommend Chhetri’s name for the Padma Shri. A knowledgeable source told news agency PTI, “If there is one name in Indian football who deserves to be recommended for such a huge honour, it is undoubtedly Sunil Chhetri. The AIFF recognises Sunil’s contribution and has already looking at the criteria.”
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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