SPORTS

The tipping moment

A lot happened in the world of sports this past week. Amidst the fervor of the Indian Premier League, Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri announced his retirement during the World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait on June 6. Chhetri is putting up his boots after a 19-year career filled with numerous highlights, including 94 goals for his country.

Even though the fans anticipated it, many found it difficult to accept. Suhas Bhat, a devoted supporter of Chhetri and an enthusiastic football watcher, is still in disbelief.

“We have been seeing him perform for about twenty years. Even though we were aware that he would eventually retire, Bhat admits it hasn’t been easy. He continues, saying, “I don’t believe any of us can adequately capture his legacy in Indian football in words. He is one of the best athletes our nation has ever produced and a mainstay in the game. He exercises as hard as anybody and is very fit for his age of 39. He now has the third-highest goal total among active football players, only surpassed by [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi. He is mostly to blame if India has advanced in the game recently.

On June 6, Chhetri’s last game will take place at Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium, and many people have already begun getting ready for it. West Block Blues, a Bangalore FC supporter group that Chhetri captains, is led by Rakesh Haridas, and he describes the match as dramatic. “The guy elevated Indian football to a level where the country is acknowledged as a football nation. Youngsters have taken up football after seeing Chhetri play. He is a highly regarded athlete for a reason, said Haridas.

Chhetri stated after the announcement that there had been no bodily harm that led to the decision. In a virtual conversation, Chhetri states, “The decision to retire was not made because of the physical aspect; I am still fit and can run, chase, and defend; the hard work is not difficult. The reason has to do with the mental aspect.”

The news may have come as a shock, but Shubhan Sahi, who has already begun organizing his trip to Kolkata to see Chhetri play one more game wearing the Indian football team shirt, thinks Chhetri understands exactly what he was doing. He’s given it a lot of consideration. According to Sahi, we should respect his choice and be grateful for what he has done for Indian football.

People recall a lot of “Chhetri moments” that happened on the field. Felsy Royer, who was there at the stadium during the Chhetri frenzy, says that his most memorable Indian game was the one versus Kyrgyzstan. “In a 2017 match between India and Kyrgyzstan at Kanteerava Stadium, Chhetri, with help from Jeje, sprinted from our box towards Kyrgyzstan’s goal and scored an incredible goal. You may learn all there is to know about the guy from a YouTube video that shows that goal, the cheers of the audience, and comments. Royer remembers, “That was one of the best moments I have ever seen in a stadium,” and she says Chhetri is the reason she started to love football.

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