Striker Sunil Chhetri yesterday became India’s all-time top scorer thanks to his first half strike against Nepal in an international friendly at the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri. India beat Nepal 2-0 with Clifford Miranda adding the second in the 48th minute.
Chhetri recently equalled Bhaichung Bhutia’s record of 42 international goals. However, Bhutia had taken 107 matches to achieve the record, while Chhetri needed just 80 matches to score his 43rd goal having equalled the Sikkimese Sniper’s mark in the 1-1 draw against Philippines. The next player in the tally is IM Vijayan, who has 40 goals to his credit from 79 matches.
The next two players in the list, Shabbir Ali is a far off 23 goals from 72 matches, while PK Banerjee has 19 goals from 36 matches. Chhetri almost mirrors Vijayan when it comes to the numbers and consistency in goal-scoring.
However, the former India captain also known as the ‘Black Pearl’ of Indian football, believes Chhetri is way ahead. “Sunil is the only Indian footballer I hear about frequently and that shows how good he is. He reminds me a lot of Bhaichung, but I think Sunil can go on to achieve a lot more than what Bhaichung and myself did. He is only 29.
“If he can remain injury-free and play for another four to five years, I have no doubt that he can score a century,” Vijayan (44) told MiD DAY from Hyderabad yesterday where he is representing Kerala Police at the ongoing All India Police Games.
“Sunil made his debut as a teenager in the same year as I quit the game — 2002. He has proved his talent at the highest level and is currently the flag bearer of Indian football. The only problem I see that may hinder his goal-scoring spree is that India are not playing as many matches as they should.
Unless he gets more opportunity, he will not be able to achieve greater heights. “Some people may think I am being unreasonable but if a 100 is possible in Indian football, Sunil is the only person for now who can go on and get it,” Vijayan signed off.