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Sunil Chhetri Reflects on His Journey as He Nears International Retirement

In the world of Indian football, few names command as much respect and admiration as Sunil Chhetri. With a remarkable career that has seen him become one of the country’s most celebrated athletes, Chhetri is on the brink of international retirement, bringing an era to a poignant close. Featuring in 150 international matches and scoring an impressive 94 goals, Chhetri has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the sport. As he counts down to his final outing for India, he reflects on the blessings and challenges that have shaped his journey.

“It’s been a surreal and incredible journey,” Chhetri said. “Over time, I’ve found a way to balance my emotions. They say, ‘count your blessings,’ and every single day I get to be on the pitch is indeed a blessing I’ve never taken for granted.”

Indian football enthusiasts are abuzz as the national team prepares for the crucial 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Kuwait, scheduled for June 6 in Kolkata. This match holds special significance not just because of its importance on the road to World Cup qualifications but also because it marks Chhetri’s final appearance in international football.

As the Indian team disembarked at the Kolkata airport, all eyes were on Chhetri. The football icon drew the attention of fans and media alike, visibly moved by the emotions of the moment. “These last few days, I’ve been caught in a bit of a dilemma,” Chhetri admitted. “Now that there’s a finite number of days left with the national team, I’ve pondered how best to spend them. Should I count each day and training session, or should I simply live in the moment without dwelling on the impending end?”

Having made a conscious decision, Chhetri chose a path of gratitude and mindfulness. “I’ve opted to count my sessions but with deep gratitude. There’s no room for apprehension; rather, I feel a profound sense of thankfulness to the sport and my team for allowing me the privilege to do what I love,” he explained.

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Chhetri even shared a whimsical wish, expressing the desire to capture his feelings in a box. “If I could, I would encapsulate this overwhelming sense of gratitude and bring it with me to each training session,” he said, a testament to his enduring passion and commitment to football.

The excitement in Kolkata is palpable as the city, often referred to as the “City of Joy,” prepares to host this significant match. Any international football game here garners tremendous support, and the forthcoming match against Kuwait is no exception. The “Blue Tigers,” as the Indian team is fondly known, have a crucial opportunity to secure three points, a step that would bring them closer to their first-ever appearance in Round 3 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers. Additionally, a win would edge them nearer to automatic qualification for the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027.

Earlier this month, Chhetri made an emotional announcement, revealing that the June 6 match would be his swan song for India. The weight of this revelation has only intensified the anticipation surrounding the game. Following their arrival from Bhubaneswar, Chhetri and his teammates will continue their rigorous training camp in Kolkata, with their first on-field session scheduled for Thursday.

“Inching closer to my international retirement, I can’t help but feel indebted to my teammates and the sport itself for helping me achieve so much in Indian football,” Chhetri acknowledged. “Football has given me everything, and I owe every bit of my success to the relentless spirit of the team and the beautiful game.”

The forthcoming clash against Kuwait is more than just a match; it symbolizes the culmination of Chhetri’s career, a tribute to his unwavering dedication, and a celebration of his contributions to Indian football. Fans, teammates, and the country at large will be watching with bated breath, eager to witness the closing chapter of a legend’s illustrious journey. Indeed, win or lose, June 6 will be remembered as a day when India honored one of its greatest sporting icons.

As Sunil Chhetri prepares to bid farewell to international football, his legacy as a stalwart of the sport in India is firmly cemented. His journey serves as an inspiration to countless aspiring footballers, a testament to what can be achieved through passion, dedication, and gratitude.