Primary reason why I got Khel Ratna is playing for 19 years: Sunil Chhetri

Suni Chhetri, 37, who began his professional career in 2002 with the famous Mohun Bagan club and made his international debut in 2005, received the Khel Ratna from President Ram Nath Kovind.

Published: 13th November 2021 07:43 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th November 2021 07:43 PM   |  A+A-

Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri

Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri (Photo | PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The first footballer to be conferred with the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, Indian maestro Sunil Chhetri on Saturday credited his longevity at the top level as the reason for bagging the highest sporting honour of the country.

The 37-year-old India captain, who began his professional career in 2002 with the famous Mohun Bagan club and made his international debut in 2005, received the Khel Ratna from President Ram Nath Kovind.

"One of the primary reasons why I got the Khel Ratna Award is because I have been playing for 19 years. I want to thank each one of the masseurs, physios and doctors. You superstars have been the main reason why I could be on the pitch," Chhetri said.

"There have been so many times when I thought I couldn't, but you guys made it possible for me," he said in a statement issued by All India Football Federation.

He also thanked all the clubs he had played for, his teammates -- both at the clubs and the national team, the fans and his family.

"All these years you have suffered with me, rejoiced with me, you were there at with me at every ups and downs, you dreamt with me -- and I very happily share this Award with each and every one of you."

Arguably India's greatest footballer after the 'Golden Era' of the last century, Chhetri has played the most international matches and scored most goals.

With 80 strikes from 125 international matches, he is currently tied with Argentine superstar Lionel Messi on the number of goals among active players.

He is one of the few Indian footballers who have been awarded the Padma Shri and has also been conferred with the Arjuna Award.



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