Sunil Chhetri’s 100th game to headline Intercontinental Cup

May 29, 2018

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The Intercontinental Cup which begins on June 1 at the Mumbai Football Arena (MFA) here has failed to generate a lot of buzz, perhaps with only one event on the minds of football fans across the country at the moment – the FIFA World Cup which starts on June 14.

Organisers, however, are planning to pull out all the stops for the June 4 fixture between India and Kenya. The reason? It’s going to be skipper Sunil Chhetri’s 100th game in the national colours. The talismanic striker-turned-playmaker is set to become only the second Indian after Bhaichung Bhutia to reach such a milestone.

The 33-year-old, who debuted against Pakistan in a friendly on June 12, 2005, has earned 98 caps so far, with the Intercontinental Cup opener against minnows Chinese Taipei set to be his 99th match. Bhutia featured in 104 games for the country.

The Bengaluru FC skipper has scored a record 56 goals so far, with his first hat-trick coming in India’s 4-1 win over Tajikistan in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup on August 13, 2008. Last June, Chhetri became the fourth highest goal-scorer among active international players when he struck his 54th against Kyrgyzstan, surpassing England’s Wayne Rooney.

Sources told TOI that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) plans to present him with a plaque ahead of the match. That’s not all as the venue partners, MFA, too, are planning something interactive to give fans the opportunity to wish Chhetri, who has been a mainstay in the Indian team right from his debut.

“Coach (Stephen Constantine) doesn’t want a lot of celebrations as it’s mid-tournament. That being the said, his teammates will definitely plan something,” a source said.

Earlier in the month, AIFF revealed they have recommended Chhetri’s name for the Padma Shri, the country’s fourth-highest civilian award.

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