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Sunil Chhetri Bids Farewell to International Football: An Era Ends

Sunil Chhetri Bids Farewell to International Football: An Era Ends

Kolkata:  Sunil Chhetri, the iconic captain of the Indian National Football team, bid adieu to international football following an illustrious career spanning over 19 years. The legendary footballer was felicitated in a grand ceremony following his retirement from international football. The emotional farewell came after a goalless draw between India and Kuwait in the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier at Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday.

Prominent figures from the Indian football circuit, including the president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), gathered to honor Chhetri’s illustrious career. The ceremony began with West Bengal Sports Minister Arup Biswas presenting Chhetri with a gold necklace. This was followed by the AIFF and Kolkata’s three major clubs – East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, and Mohammedan SC – giving him mementos to commemorate his contributions to Indian football.

In his heartfelt retirement speech, Chhetri expressed his gratitude: “For everyone who came for the game, everyone who has watched for 19 years, thank you. These 19 years would not have been possible without y’all and I genuinely mean it.” His words resonated deeply with the 58,000 spectators present, many of whom had watched him play since the beginning of his career.

Chhetri’s journey began 22 years ago in Kolkata with a contract with Mohun Bagan. His career also saw him play briefly for East Bengal, further cementing his legacy in the City of Joy. The 39-year-old striker’s decision to retire on the same grounds where he started his professional career added a poetic touch to the evening.

Chhetri, often dubbed “India’s Messi,” has been a beacon of inspiration for many. His retirement marks the end of an era in Indian football. His accolades include being the fourth-highest goal scorer in the world, after Lionel Messi, Ali Daei, and Cristiano Ronaldo, with 94 goals in international matches.

The farewell ceremony saw a wave of tributes from celebrities and sports personalities alike. Abhishek Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, and others took to social media to express their admiration and sadness at Chhetri’s retirement. “End of an era,” said Tendulkar, capturing the sentiment of millions of fans.

As Chhetri completed a lap of the stadium and received a guard of honor from his teammates, the crowd erupted in applause, momentarily forgetting the disappointment of the draw against Kuwait. The match, which could impact India’s chances of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup, took a backseat as fans celebrated the legacy of a player who has been the face of Indian football for nearly two decades.

Chhetri’s influence extends beyond his goal-scoring prowess. He has been a mentor, a leader, and an inspiration to young footballers across India. As he steps away from international football, his legacy will continue to inspire future generations.

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