India football legend Bhaichung Bhutia congratulated Sunil Chhetri after the Indian skipper overtook the former to become the most capped international footballer from India, crossing his mentor’s tally of 107 appearances. Chhetri attained the feat when he led team India in the King’s Cup opener against Curacao, on Wednesday in Thailand. Also Read - 'Childhood Hero' Diego Maradona Inspired me to Take up Football: Bhaichung Bhutia
“I am extremely proud of him. Big congratulations to you Sunil,” Bhaichung said. The former captain also said that Chhetri has been an exemplary footballer and he hoped for him to continue to perform in the same manner. “You could always see the kind of commitment he had since we first met in Kolkata. His hunger to succeed always made him special,” he added. Also Read - Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju Says Cannot 'Make A Call' On When Crowds Will Return To Stadiums
He reasoned for Chhetri’s longevity in the game and said his professionalism and hardworking nature will keep him going. “Even if you compare him to younger players, Sunil stands out. He is always at the gym doing that extra bit. The manner he has maintained his fitness is exemplary. He is a very sincere soul,” the footballer from Sikkim said.
As it happened, India lost their game against Curacao 1-3 despite the skipper scoring in his milestone match. Chhetri hit the back of the nets in the 31st minute to score his 69th international goal. Curacao, the 82nd ranked Caribbean island, scored three goals in space of 18 minutes. They have few players plying trades in English Premier League and other European Leagues.
Bhaichung Bhutia had retired from the game in August 2011, after playing his last match against South Korea in AFC Asian Cup 2011. India had lost that match 1-4 and departed from the group stages of the tournament.