Sunil Chhetri

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Category Footballer
Personal Information
Full Name Sunil Chhetri
Date of Birth 3rd August 1984
Place of Birth New Delhi, India
Height 5' 7" (170 cm)
Playing Position Forward
Club Information
Current Club Kansas City Wizards, United States of America
Number 19
Senior Career
Years Team Appearances Goals
2002 - 2005 Mohun Bagan 18 8
2005 - 2008 JCT FC 48 20
2008 - 2009 East Bengal 14 7
2009 - 2010 Dempo SC 13 8
2010 - Kansas City Wizards 1 1
National Team1
Years Team Appearances Goals
2004 - India 35 16

Sunil Chhetri (born 3 August 1984 in Delhi) is an Indian footballer who currently plays for Kansas City Wizards in Major League Soccer. He is Nepali by ethnicity, and plays in the forward position.

Chhetri started his football career playing for school teams and then for his local club, City Club. Since then, he has represented I-League clubs Mohun Bagan, East Bengal Club and JCT FC. At Mohun Bagan, he scored eight goals over three seasons where the club finished in the bottom half of the league table every time. The next three seasons were spent at JCT where he scored a total of twenty goals including twelve goals in a single season where JCT finished second in the league. This earned him the league's "Player of the Year" award. Afterwards he played for East Bengal and scored seven goals in a season where they finished sixth. For the 2009–10 season, he signed with Dempo SC on a two-year contract.

At international level, Chhetri has represented India in the Nehru Cup, the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup. He received much media attention after scoring a hat-trick in the final of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup which led to an unsuccessful trial at English club Coventry City and speculation linking him with many European and North American clubs. In addition, Chhetri has received awards such as the 2007 All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year.

Early Life

Sunil Chhetri was born in Delhi to parents of Gorkha origin;2 KB Chhetri, a retired army officer, and Sushila Chhetri, a former member of the Nepal women's football team.3 He played football for Indian schools and was offered trials by clubs such as Mohun Bagan during this time.4 While attending the Army Public School in Delhi, Chhetri played in the Hindkishore and the Deorani Mamta Sub Junior Inter-School football tournaments.5,6 Chhetri stated that he never intended to become a professional footballer: "I had no plans of becoming a footballer. The only reason I took it up was to get into a good college,"7 as he believed gaining an 'India team' certificate would help boost his chances of achieving this goal.8

Club Career

After starting his career for the Delhi-based City Club,9 Chhetri transferred to Mohun Bagan and remained there for three seasons. In his first season, the 2002–03 season, Chhetri scored four goals10 in a season where Mohun Bagan finished in seventh place.11 In the next season, Chhetri scored two goals and these came against SC Goa and bottom-placed Indian Bank as Mohun Bagan once again finished in the bottom half of the table, in ninth place.12 Chhetri once again scored two goals in the 2004–05 season; this time Mohun Bagan finished eighth in the league and remained in the National Football League (NFL) on goal difference.13 In the Santosh Trophy, where he played for Delhi, Chhetri managed to score seven goals in the whole tournament including four in a match against Gujarat.14


Subsequently, he moved to JCT FC (then known as JCT Mills) for the 2005–06 season.15 That season, Chhetri scored two goals in all competitions, one against Salgaocar and the other against SC Goa, with JCT finishing sixth in the league.16 After his game against the Brazilian club Sao Paulo FC in the Super Soccer Series in 2007, comparisons were drawn with fellow Indian striker Baichung Bhutia.17 He also scored two hat-tricks for Delhi in the group stages of the 61st Santosh Trophy against Orissa and Railways.18 Delhi were eliminated in the pre-quarter-final playoffs, however, after losing 1–0 to Tamil Nadu in extra time.19

"I have played so much in Delhi. It’s a great feeling to be clubbed with some of the legends." Sunil Chhetri, upon winning the AIFF Player of the Year.20

At the end of the 2006–07 season (the last NFL before it became the I-League), Chhetri was awarded the league's "Player of the Year" award as well as the best forward award.21 He scored a total of twelve goals in the league as JCT finished second behind Dempo SC.22 His twelve goals included two which came in a 2–0 win against Mohun Bagan and another double in a 3–2 win against Dempo SC.23,24 In the first I–League season, Chhetri scored seven goals as JCT finished in third place.25 That season, his solitary double was against Salgaocar in the last game of the season.26 He was selected as the AIFF Player of the Year 2007 for his excellent performances for his club and country.27 In October 2008 he sparked interest overseas from clubs Estoril Praia of the Portuguese second division, Liga de Honra,28 and Leeds United of the English League One.29 Although there had been no deal agreed with Leeds, Chhetri spoke in an interview saying, "Nothing has been confirmed as yet but yes, I think I am close to getting there,"30 however a deal never materialised and he instead moved to East Bengal Club.

East Bengal

For the 2008–09 season, he signed with East Bengal Club.31 He scored on his debut against Chirag United on 26 September 2008 with a goal in the 28th minute to win the man of the match award.32,33 Chhetri scored a crucial goal in the 30th Federation Cup in a 1–0 win against his former club JCT, which almost assured East Bengal of a place in the semi-finals.34 In the semi-final against arch rivals Mohun Bagan, things were much different for Chhetri as he missed the decisive penalty in the penalty shootout as East Bengal were knocked out of the competition.35 Newspaper reports suggested that a few Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs, rumoured to be Los Angeles Galaxy and DC United, were interested in the Indian striker along with his team mate Steven Dias.36,37 On 25 January 2009, he arrived in England to start a trial with Coventry City,[30] rejecting the contract from the MLS.38 Coventry City manager Chris Coleman announced four days later that they would not be following their interest in the Indian international.39 Roughly four months later, on 20 May 2009, Chhetri said that he would again be going to Coventry City on an extended trial of 15 days in June 2009.40 He finished the season with seven goals helping East Bengal finish sixth place in the league.41

"Of course, I would love to play in Europe like [David] Villa and it all depends where I get an offer from. England would certainly be fine and I have had talks but the stumbling blocks are the work permit restrictions." Sunil Chhetri, stating his desire to move abroad to play alongside Spanish striker David Villa.42

Dempo SC

After being released by East Bengal, Chhetri signed a two-year contract for Dempo SC on 22 May 2009, with a clause stating he could attend trials abroad in the future if he wished to.4344
On 7 August, the Scottish club Celtic were linked with a move to sign Chhetri. Celtic had him watched during the pre-season friendly with Santboià, a third division Spanish club. The player's agent, Yogesh Joshee was quoted as saying, "I'm waiting to get feedback from Celtic, who saw him on Monday by head scout and then another scout came to watch game, I'll let you know the outcome when I know."45 The Hindustan Times stated in an article on 30 August that Chhetri had signed a three-year contract with English club Queens Park Rangers, but the British government denied him a work permit. According to an article on the Football Players’ Association of India's official website, Chhetri was denied a work permit because India were not in the top 70 of the FIFA World Rankings.46 Chhetri remained positive: "But it's not the end of the world. I will still continue to work hard for my country and my club Dempo, who have been very supportive."47

Kansas City Wizards

Chhetri trialled with Major League Soccer club Kansas City Wizards throughout March 2010, competing during their pre-season games.48 He became the first Indian to represent a Major League Soccer club when he formally signed for the team on 24 March 2010.49 Peter Vermes, the manager, was quoted saying "One thing we really like about Sunil is that he's a crafty player. Technically he's very sharp, and he's a guy that has good attacking tendencies."50

International Career


Chhetri has represented India at international level.51 He made his debut for the India national team in the 2004 SAF Games in Pakistan.52 He scored his first international goal against Pakistan on 12 June 2005.53

Chhetri's first international tournament was the 2007 Nehru Cup. In the opening game, India defeated Cambodia 6–0 with Chhetri scoring two goals.54 He also scored a goal in the 2–3 defeat to Syria55 and another in the 3–0 win over Kyrgyzstan56 to take his goal tally to four. Chhetri was involved in the build-up to N.P. Pradeep's decisive goal as India beat Syria 1–0 in the final to become the first champions of the tournament since 1997.57 Later in 2007, India began their 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign. They were knocked out in the first round by Lebanon with Chhetri scoring once in the away leg (a 4–1 defeat)58 and once in the home leg (a 2–2 draw)59 resulting in a 6–3 aggregate defeat.60
The 2008 SAFF Championship started with three victories out of a possible three in the group stages. In the opening game, Chhetri scored a goal in a 4–0 victory over Nepal.61 He scored once more in the championship—in the 2–1 semi-final victory over Bhutan; this was an equaliser before Gouramangi Singh scored India's second goal to send India through to the final.62 India lost 1–0 to the Maldives in the final and Chhetri played for the full 90 minutes.63 Later that year, in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, Chhetri played in all of the matches and scored four goals. In the 1–0 win over Afghanistan, he was involved in the build-up to Climax Lawrence's goal.64 He also played for the full 90 minutes against Tajikistan (a 1–1 draw)65 and Turkmenistan (a 2–1 win).66 In the semi-final against Myanmar, Chhetri scored the only goal in a 1–0 victory after being assisted by Baichung Bhutia to see India through to the final.67 In the final against Tajikistan, Chhetri scored a hat-trick which enabled India to win the Cup. This automatically qualified India for the 2011 Asian Cup, the first time they had qualified for the tournament in 24 years.68 His first goal was originally disallowed for offside by Uzbek referee Valentin Kovalenko, who changed his mind after consulting his assistant.69 Hundreds of fans waited outside the stadium to greet India's new "poster boy" and India manager Bob Houghton stated, "He is remarkable, brave and honest. He never gives up."70

Initially, stated that Chhetri would miss the 2009 Nehru Cup through injury.71 He played in the tournament, however, and he scored in the second match of the Nehru Cup, a penalty in a 2–1 win over Kyrgyzstan,72 this being first time he had completed a full match since getting injured before the pre-season tour of Spain with his club.73 He featured in the other three games in the round robin stage of the tournament, including the "dress rehearsal" for the final against Syria, but did not score.747576 Chhetri was one of India's scorers in the penalty shootout victory over Syria in the final after the match had ended in a 1–1 draw,77— was critical of the Indian striker, regarding it as one of his "forgettable performances"78 as he missed several opportunities to score in the match.79

Sr. No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 12 June 2005 Ayub Stadium, Quetta, Pakistan 22px-Flag_of_Pakistan.svg.png Pakistan 1 - 0 1 - 1 Friendly
2 17 August 2007 Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi, India 22px-Flag_of_Cambodia.svg.png Cambodia 4 - 0 6 - 0 2007 Nehru Cup
3 17 August 2007 Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi, India 22px-Flag_of_Cambodia.svg.png Cambodia 5 - 0 6 - 0 2007 Nehru Cup
4 23 August 2007 Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi, India 22px-Flag_of_Syria.svg.png Syria 1 - 0 2 - 3 2007 Nehru Cup
5 26 August 2007 Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi, India 22px-Flag_of_Kyrgyzstan.svg.png Kyrgyzstan 2 - 0 3 - 0 2007 Nehru Cup
6 8 October 2007 Saida International Stadium, Saida, Lebanon 22px-Flag_of_Lebanon.svg.png Lebanon 1 - 0 1 - 4 2010 World Cup Qualification
7 30 October 2007 Fatorda Stadium, Goa, India 22px-Flag_of_Lebanon.svg.png Lebanon 1 - 0 2 -2 2010 World Cup Qualification
8 24 May 2008 Fatorda Stadium, Goa, India 22px-Flag_of_Chinese_Taipei_for_Olympic_games.svg.png Chinese Taipei 2 - 0 3 - 0 Friendly
9 24 May 2008 Fatorda Stadium, Goa, India 22px-Flag_of_Chinese_Taipei_for_Olympic_games.svg.png Chinese Taipei 3 - 0 3 - 0 Friendly
10 3 June 2008 Rasmee Dhandu Stadium, Malé, Maldives 16px-Flag_of_Nepal.svg.png Nepal 3 - 0 4 - 0 2008 SAFF Cup
11 11 June 2008 Rasmee Dhandu Stadium, Malé, Maldives 22px-Flag_of_Bhutan.svg.png Bhutan 1 - 1 2 - 1 2008 SAFF Cup
12 7 August 2008 Gachibowli Athletic Stadium, Hyderabad, India 22px-Flag_of_Myanmar.svg.png Myanmar 1 - 0 1 - 0 2008 AFC Challenge Cup
13 13 August 2008 Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi, India 22px-Flag_of_Tajikistan.svg.png Tajikistan 1 - 0 4 - 1 2008 AFC Challenge Cup
14 13 August 2008 Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi, India 22px-Flag_of_Tajikistan.svg.png Tajikistan 3 - 0 4 - 1 2008 AFC Challenge Cup
15 13 August 2008 Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi, India 22px-Flag_of_Tajikistan.svg.png Tajikistan 4 - 1 4 - 1 2008 AFC Challenge Cup
16 23 August 2008 Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi, India 22px-Flag_of_Kyrgyzstan.svg.png Kyrgyzstan 2 -0 2 - 1 2009 Nehru Cup

Photo Gallery

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Syria’s Ali Dyeb looks on as India’s Sunil Chettri, right tries to control the ball in the final of the Nehru Cup soccer tournament in New Delhi, India. India defeated Syria 1-0 to win the cup. Photo by Gurinder Osan / AFP India’s Sunil Chettri tries to restrain Syria’s Zeen Alabeden Al Fandi in the final of the Nehru Cup soccer tournament in New Delhi, India. India defeated Syria 1-0 to win the cup. Photo by Gurinder Osan / AFP

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