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Looking at Sunil Chhetri’s iconic moments for India ahead of his farewell clash against Kuwait

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Sunil Chhetri will make his final appearance for the Indian national team when the Blue Tigers take on Kuwait in a FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifying match at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday. 

Chhetri is the highest-capped footballer in Indian history with 150 appearances for the Blue Tigers and the highest scorer with 94 goals. 

ALSO READ: India vs Kuwait, FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers: ‘Win will be a farewell gift for Sunil Chhetri,’ says Subhasish Bose

The 39-year-old has cemented legendary status in Indian football, and in this article, Sportstar takes you through some of the iconic moments of Chhetri’s career. 

A debut to remember

Chhetri made his senior debut for India against Pakistan on June 12, 2005, in Quetta. He made it an occasion to remember by grabbing his maiden senior goal for his country in that match. 

Chhetri makes his debut for India against Pakistan.

Chhetri makes his debut for India against Pakistan.
| Photo Credit:
AIFF

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Chhetri makes his debut for India against Pakistan.
| Photo Credit:
AIFF

First senior title

In 2007, Chhetri won his first senior title with India after helping his team lift the Nehru Cup and finished as the second-highest goal scorer in that edition with four goals. He won the trophy again in 2009 and 2012 ( he topped the scoring charts with four goals). 

Chhetri (R) celebrates with Bhaichung Bhutia after winning the Nehru Cup in 2009.

Chhetri (R) celebrates with Bhaichung Bhutia after winning the Nehru Cup in 2009.
| Photo Credit:
THE HINDU

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Chhetri (R) celebrates with Bhaichung Bhutia after winning the Nehru Cup in 2009.
| Photo Credit:
THE HINDU

Hat-trick in the final

Then 24-year-old Chhetri helped India win the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup for the first time. He was the top-scorer for the nation (four goals), including a hat-trick in the final against Tajikistan.

Becoming captain of the national team

Chhetri became captain of the national team in 2012. It was a momentous year for him after he set a new record of scoring seven goals in a single edition of the SAFF Championship, surpassing I.M. Vijayan’s record of six. 

An iconic appeal

In June 2018, Chhetri scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win against Chinese Taipei in the Intercontinental Cup, but seeing a poor turnout, he appealed to fans to come and support Indian football. On his 100th international appearance, he got the best gift as fans turned up in numbers to witness India beat Kenya 3–0. Chhetri scored twice.

Chhetri celebrates after beating Kenya 3-0 in the Intercontinental Cup in 2018.

Chhetri celebrates after beating Kenya 3-0 in the Intercontinental Cup in 2018.
| Photo Credit:
THE HINDU

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Chhetri celebrates after beating Kenya 3-0 in the Intercontinental Cup in 2018.
| Photo Credit:
THE HINDU

In the record books again

In June 2023, Chhetri captained India to a record-extending ninth SAFF Championship title. Not only did he finish as that edition’s top scorer with five goals, he became the joint-highest goalscorer in SAFF championship history with 23 goals, along with Maldives’ Ali Ashfaq. 

The 150th appearance

The Indian captain made his 150th appearance against Afghanistan in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match. While India lost 2-1, Chhetri managed to get on the scoresheet, which extended his unique record of scoring for India in his first, 25th, 50th, 75th, 100th, 125th and 150th games.

Sunil Chhetri being felicitated ahead of his 150th appearance for India.

Sunil Chhetri being felicitated ahead of his 150th appearance for India.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

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Sunil Chhetri being felicitated ahead of his 150th appearance for India.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

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