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Happy Birthday Sunil Chhetri! 30 facts about India’s football captain

Amoy Ghoshal
FEATURED COLUMNIST
His first foreign club was USA’s Kansas City Wizards

11. His only other international hat-trick came in 2010 against Vietnam in Pune. Statistically his favourite opponent is Maldives, scoring five times against the South Asian neighbours.

12. In 2008, he joined East Bengal for a second spell in Kolkata. He couldn’t win any major trophy with the red-and-gold brigade that season but scored in a friendly against Bayern Munich reserves which boasted future stars like Holger Badstuber and Thomas Muller.

13. In January 2009, Chhetri had a trial at then English Championship outfit Coventry City, but couldn’t seal a permanent move. However later that year he had successfully agreed personal terms on a three-year contract with Queens Park Rangers but the move couldn’t be completed, as he was denied a work permit due to India’s poor FIFA Ranking.

14. Chhetri had later selected that unfortunate QPR failure as the lowest point of his career, but he completed a hat-trick of titles with the Indian national team in 2009 by helping them retain the Nehru Cup.

15. The striker moved to Goa for the first time in 2009, joining Dempo. He set the Panjim-based club on their way to the I-League title with eight goals in 13 appearances.

16. But Chhetri left Dempo midway through the 2009-10 season, as he finally realised his dream of playing abroad by joining USA’s MLS outfit Kansas City Wizards. He became only the third Indian after Mohammed Salem and Bhaichung Bhutia to play professionally for a foreign club.

17. However the American venture didn’t go too well for Chhetri as he hardly got any first team action with the only highlight being a substitute appearance in a friendly against Manchester United. He was soon released by the MLS franchise to join the Indian national team for their 2011 Asian Cup preparations.

Scored twice in the 2011 Asian Cup

18. India bowed out of the 2011 Asian Cup group stage but Chhetri caught the attention of international media and scouts, playing every minute of India’s historic campaign. He got on the score-sheet against Bahrain and South Korea, thus becoming the first Indian after Inder Singh to score in more than one match in the Asian Cup.

19. Australia’s Perth Glory went on record of monitoring his progress during the Asian Cup but in the end Sunil joined Kolkata’s United Sports Club for a short-term deal that would last until the end of the 2010-11 season. He had an excellent goal scoring ratio there too.

20. He returned to Mohun Bagan for a second spell in the summer of 2011 and became the 23rd footballer that year to win the prestigious Arjuna Award.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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