India is not exactly a nation that is associated with football. In spite of being a nation of more than 1 billion people, the Asian nation has never appeared at a FIFA World Cup. They did once quality for the showpiece event in 1950 and were set to play in Brazil. However, they ended up controversially pulling out. The reasons for this still remain a mystery.
At the time, the All India Football Federation said that the reason for the decision was due to various reasons such as insufficient practice time and valuing the Olympics more than the World Cup. Despite this, many historians and pundits believe that the actual reason why India did not participate in the 1950 World Cup was because of a law imposed by FIFA which banned players from playing barefoot.
Little does the public know that Indian national team forward Sunil Chettri is currently one of the most prolific active scorers in world football. With 67 international goals to his name from 107 appearances for India, Chettri is currently the second highest active goal scorer in international football and is behind only the iconic Cristiano Ronaldo who has 85 goals after 156 appearances.
The 34-year-old Chettri has two more goals to his name than Argentina’s Lionel Messi who is in third place with 65 goals from 120 appearances.
Make no mistake that there is no comparing Chettri with Messi and Ronaldo. He has after all never really been tested against so-called top-class opposition and has spent the vast majority of his career in his native India, though he did previously have short spells playing for the reserve team of Sporting Lisbon in Portugal and for Kansas City Wizards in the United States.
Chettri is a legend of South Asian football in his own right and something which sets him apart from many other footballers is his humility and dedication to his country. He recently highlighted that he will carry on playing for his country until his body stops him from doing so.
“I’m happy to do it for as long as my body allows me to. It has been the biggest honour of my life and career to play for the country and I will keep at it as long as I am capable of doing it, he said.