While the Indian mainstream media is going gaga over Sunil Chhetri’s achievement of equaling international goals with that of the current generation’s international football icon – Lionel Messi, it is required for all Indians to take a step back and stop comparing him with the legend. Sunil Chhetri has surely been driving force for Indian national football team, with India climbing up the FIFA’s world ranking tables from its lowest ranking of 173 in 2015 to 97 in 2018, but he should not be celebrated too soon.
Chhetri has scored 64 international goals playing 101 matches for Indian national football team in his career spanning from the year 2005 onwards. It is interesting to know that he has scored all of these goals with teams which have an average ranking hovering around 100 on the FIFA’s world ranking table – Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bahrain, Kenya and New Zealand to name a few. Conversely, Lionel Messi, the Argentine national in his international career spanning from 2005 has score his set of 64 goals in 124 matches playing against the likes of Croatia, Mexico, France, Spain, Germany and etc. – which are not only at the top of the FIFA’s world ranking table but have also featured in most of the World Cups.
As for their club level performances, Messi should never be compared to Chhetri – with an illustrious career with the one of the best footballing clubs in Spain – Barcelona. Messi has been the awarded the FIFA World Player of the year in 2009 and followed by winning the prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or 4 times from 2010-2015 and standing second twice in the Best FIFA Men’s Player from 2016 onwards. The selection criteria for the players of the year are sporting performance, as well as general conduct on and off the pitch. While Sunil Chhetri has surely dominated the Indian footballing scene for quite a long time, however he has failed to impress the international clubs, international team coaches and media representatives who play a vital part in deciding the FIFA awards for best footballer.
Sunil Chhetri is surely aware of these statistics, as he has time and again reiterated that he cannot be compared to Messi or Ronaldo, since he is well aware that Messi and Ronaldo play at a completely different level. Chhetri is however is playing vital part in transforming the state of football in India right from leading the national team from the front to making emotional plea on social media to fellow Indians. Indian football is set for a change, but one Chhetri won’t make a difference, it requires 10 more players of Chhetri’s passion for sport and millions of fans supporting, criticizing and watching Indian club matches.