Sunil Chhetri will be donning India colours for the 100th time on when he leads the team out to face Kenya at the Mumbai Football Arena. The 33-year-old scored a hat-trick in his 99th international match which ended with India thrashing Chinese Taipei 5-0. Chhetri is also the all-time highest goalscorer for the country and the only Indian to have scored more than 50 international goals.
Chhetri made his international debut in Quetta, Pakistan in a friendly between the two neighbouring nations in 2005 under then national coach Sukhwinder Singh. He also went on to score India’s only goal in the 1-1 draw. His first hat-trick came in his seventh appearance in a 2007 Nehru Cup match against Cambodia. He was named captain of the Indian team for the first time in 2012 by Savi Medeira for the AFC Challenge Cup qualification.
Chhetri has played an integral role in India’s recent rise in FIFA rankings under Stephen Constantine and has pretty much been the only constant apart from goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the Englishman’s squad. He scored four goals in the final round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification.
Through the course of his career, Chhetri has been named Player of the Year by the AIFF on four occasions. He has gone on to become the de facto face of Indian football since the retirement of Bhaichung Bhutia. After India’s 5-0 defeat of Taiwan on Friday, Chhetri put out a video on his social media handles appealing people to come to the stadium watch the Indian team play in the Intercontinental Cup. The video went viral on social media with the likes of Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and batting great Sachin Tendulkar putting out their own videos echoing him.