India: Sunil Chhetri needs one more year to match this Bhaichung Bhutia record
Sunil Chhetri is set to embark on his 20th season in professional football when the 2021-22 Indian Super League (ISL) season kicks off later this year.
On the front of his senior international career with India, Chhetri has donned the national team colours in every single calendar year since making his debut 16 years ago.
What is Bhaichung Bhutia's record that Sunil Chhetri can match next year?
Nicknamed 'The Sikkimese Sniper', Bhutia made his senior national team debut in 1995 and went on to record at least one appearance in every single calendar year for 17 straight years till his retirement from international football in 2011.
Sunil Chhetri has played for the country from 2005, making at least one appearance in every calendar year since. Should the India captain continue to play for India with an international cap in an official match through 2022, he will be able to match Bhutia's record of 17 straight years with an international cap.
|Player||India debut||Played every year till||Years|
The rider to Chhetri not making a national team appearance in 2020 goes down to the fact that the Blue Tigers' only official fixture of the calendar year - an international friendly against Tajikistan that was slated for March 31, 2020 - was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. India had to wait until March 25, 2021 - when they held Oman to a 1-1 draw in a friendly - after the 1-0 loss in a 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup joint qualification tie.
Notable records of Bhaichung Bhutia that Sunil Chhetri has already broken?
- Sunil Chhetri is the highest Indian goal scorer in international football with 74 goals, surpassing Bhaichung Bhutia's 27 goals - although IM Vijayan scored 29.
- Chhetri has appeared in the most number of international matches - 117 so far. Former Indian football captain, Bhutia, is second to Chhetri with 107 caps.
- Since the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had started the Player of the Year Award in 1992, no player has ever won it more than Sunil Chhetri. The Bengaluru FC star has bagged the award six times. The other players to have won the award multiple times are IM Vijayan (3) and Jo Paul Ancheri and Bhaichung Bhutia (2).
- Sunil Chhetri is the all-time highest Indian goal scorer in National Football League (NFL)/I-League history with 90 goals. The striker has played for Mohun Bagan, JCT FC, Dempo SC, United Sports Club and Bengaluru FC. The second highest Indian scorer is Bhaichung Bhutia with 89 goals.