Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri
Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri Image Courtesy: Sunil Chhetri/Instagram

Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri is not too far from legends Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo when it comes to goals.

India defeated Kuwait on penalties on Tuesday after which the country's football team won its ninth South Asian Football Federation Championship (SAFF) title.

Indian captain Sunil Chhetri, who was at the center of the win, even posted a victory photo on Instagram.

Over the last three weeks, he led his country to Inter-continental Cup apart from the SAFF Championship.

The 38-year-old has served Indian football for over a decade and has inspired many players, reported BBC.

Last month it was reported that the Indian captain had become the fourth-highest goal scorer in the history of men's football. That was when he scored a hat-trick against Pakistan during the SAFF Championship.

Among active footballers, the Indian player is the third-highest scorer of international goals.

The Indian footballer has 93 goals from 142 matches. The top two positions belong to Ronaldo, who has 123 strikes from 200 matches, followed by Messi (103 goals from 175 matches).

But if you take the all-time list, Chhetri is ranked fourth. Ali Daei, the Iranian football star, is ahead of him. He scored 109 goals from 148 matches when he was an active footballer.

India's national team, Blue Tigers, did well for themselves by qualifying for two Asian Cup finals. But the players are yet to qualify to play in the World Cup.

Still, Chhetri's achievements have not gone entirely unrecognized. FIFA produced a documentary on him. Titled "Captain Fantastic," it was released last year and is available on the FIFA+ channel.

Conversations with Chhetri usually boil down to him being in the race with Ronaldo and Messi.

He said that you cannot have the skills of "Ronaldo or score goals like him, but nobody can stop you from working hard as him."

But what makes the Indian footballer's story exceptional is that the list of all-time best 10 football players is full of stars from countries that have a great football lineage. The list includes names like Hungarian star Ferenc Puskas, who is in the sixth spot with 84 goals. Then there is Poland's Robert Lewandowski, who is in the eighth position with 79 goals.

As for Chhetri's country, the last time his team made it to a podium finish in a major championship was bronze. That was more than five decades ago in the 1970 Asian Games.

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