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From spraying perfume on his jersey to scripting unforgettable moment: Chhetri looks back at 19-year football journey

New Delhi: After stunning the footballing world with the news of his retirement, ace India marksman Sunil Chhetri revealed that he was enjoying every moment of being with the national side.
A player who redefined the standards of Indian football, Chhetri emerged as an inspiration not only for his nation but also in the international circuit. Taking to his social media handle on Thursday, the footballing icon said he would don the national jersey one last time in an international fixture against Kuwait on June 6.
The match will provide him one last opportunity to play in front of his adoring home fans at the Salt Lake Stadium before he brings the curtains down on a 19-year-long career.
In a video he shared on X (formerly Twitter) the India captain reminisced the first time he was called up to represent the national side.
The fourth-highest international goal scorer recalled the 'immense joy' he felt playing for India. He said he arrived at the difficult decision over the last few months that the forthcoming game would be his last for the country.
"There is one day that I never forget and remember it quite often is the first time I played for my countryman, it was unbelievable. But the day before, the morning of the day, Sukhi sir, my first national team coach, in the morning he came to me and he's like, you're going to start? I can't tell you how I was feeling man. I took my jersey, I sprayed some perfume on it, I have no idea why. So that day, everything that happened, once he told me, from breakfast to lunch and to the game and to my first goal in my debut, to conceding late 80th minute, that day is probably that I will never forget and is one of the best days of my national team journey," Chhetri said in a lengthy social media post.
"You know the feeling that I recollect in the last 19 years is a very nice combination of duty pressure and immense joy. I never thought individually, these are the many games that I've played for the country, this is what I've done, good or bad, but now I did it. This last one and a half, two months, I did it and it was very strange. I did it because probably I was going towards the decision that this game, this next game is going to be my last," the ace striker added.
The 39-year-old underlined that he made the decision organically and not under the influence of any external factors.
"And the moment I told myself first, that yes, this is the game that is going to be my last, is when I started recollecting everything. It was so strange, I started thinking about this game, that game, this coach, that coach, that team, that member, that ground, that away match, this good game, that bad game, all my individual performances, everything came, all the flashes came. So when I did decide that this is it, this is going to be my last game," Chhetri added.
The record-breaking forward recalled emotional times with his family, stating that his mother and wife were in tears when he informed them of his intention to retire from international football.
"I told my mom, my dad and my wife, my family first, my dad, he was normal, he was relieved, happy, everything, but my mom and my wife started crying and I told them, you always used to bug me that there are too many games, there is too much of pressure when you watch me and now that I'm telling you that, you know, I'm not going to play for my country anymore after this game," he posted.
Chhetri stated that if given the opportunity, he would never leave the game.
"And even they couldn't, they couldn't express to me as to why they, they burst into tears. It's not that I was feeling tired, it's not that I was feeling this or that, when the instinct came that this should be my last game, then I thought about it a lot," Chhetri added.
Chhetri kicked off his professional football journey with Mohun Bagan in 2002. Chhetri helped India win the 2007, 2009, and 2012 Nehru Cup, as well as the 2011, 2015, 2021 and 2023 SAFF Championship. He also led India to victory in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, which helped India qualify for its first AFC Asian Cup in 27 years.
The footballing icon received the Arjuna Award in 2011 and the Padma Shri in 2019. In 2021, he became the first footballer to get the Khel Ratna Award, India's highest sporting honour.
In a career that spanned over 19 years, the Arjuna Award winner has 94 goals in 150 matches on the international stage. The most-capped Indian footballer is the third-highest goal-scorer on the global stage with icons Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi ahead of him.

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