Updated June 7th, 2024 at 12:15 IST

'Thank you for playing the role you did in telling my story': Sunil Chhetri shares message for Media

Sunil Chhetri expresses gratitude for the media's role in portraying his story, emphasizing the impact of their contribution on covering his journey with IND.

Reported by: Aryan Suraj Chadha
Sunil Chhetri | Image: X/@IndianFootball
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In India's FIFA World Cup qualifier match against Kuwait on Thursday, Sunil Chhetri—dubbed the "Captain, Leader, Legend" and one of the most recognisable football players in the nation's history—played his final match for the Blue Tigers. The captain of the Indian football team, Sunil Chhetri, declared last month that he was retiring from international football and that the match versus Kuwait at Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium would be his final one. As it happened, his final match for India ended in defeat as Kuwait held the home team to a draw, ruining their chances of moving on to the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament.

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Sunil Chhetri has a special message for the media post-international retirement

After the India vs Kuwait match on June 6, Sunil Chhetri sent a poignant statement to the media announcing the end of his 19-year tenure with the Indian national team. The match, which took place at Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium, concluded in a 0-0 tie.

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After playing his final international match in India's FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait, Chhetri wrote a message expressing his sincere thanks to the media and journalists. Social media users have responded well to this message. The outcome of the game at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Stadium marked a heartbreaking end to the remarkable career of Sunil Chhetri.

Even if he did not score one of his famous game-winning goals, Chhetri's legacy is still unmatched. At 39, he finished his career with 94 goals, fourth only to Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Ali Daei in men's international football goalscoring rankings. The 58,000 spectators at Salt Lake Stadium gave Chhetri a standing ovation as the most-capped and most successful player in India's history. They had hoped for a more victorious sendoff for their "Captain Fantastic."

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In his letter to the media, Chhetri thanked his friends in journalism for their support over the years, expressed regret for the short press conference, and thanked them from the bottom of his heart. The letter read:

“Over the last 19 years, I've had the opportunity to interact with so many of you, on more than a few occasions. There were times when I had to say a lot less than I would have liked to, and others where I responded to your questions with long monologues. There were the answers laced with frustration, the ones that were - much to your annoyance - non-committal, and then the press conferences that ended in a hurry. But through it all, I'd like to believe that 1 was always honest with you. And that I always chose to have a conversation with you, even if it risked making headlines for reasons beyond those that I would have liked. I wanted to - by way of this letter and this occasion - thank you for playing the role you did in telling my story,”

Thank you for the love and adulation you have shown me through your prose and photographs. But most importantly, thank you for the times when you've been honest in your assessment of the way I've played or carried myself. Yours isn't an easy job, but a really important one. And now is as good a time as any to acknowledge it. Keep telling stories of Indian football - the good, the not po good, but mostly the ones with genuine promise and hope. We need it now more than ever. You had, and will always have, the best seats in the house. I just hope that, over these 19 years, I have made that experience just a little more special. Maybe I’ll join your dugout for a game or two. Signing off with gratitude,"

Also Read: 'You've held the flag high': Tendulkar pays heartfelt tribute to Chhetri

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The absence of Sunil Chhetri, the most capped and accomplished player in Indian national team history, makes this match a harsh lesson for the side to find a perfect no.9 role in the Indian football team. Chhetri's absence leaves a void that will be difficult to fill, but it also presents an opportunity for a new player to step up and make their mark on the team. The search for a new no.9 will be a challenging one, but it is necessary for the growth and success of Indian football in the future.

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Published June 7th, 2024 at 12:15 IST