Sunil Chhetri hailed the people who lent a helping hand during the COVID-19 pandemic as his inspiration after winning the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, the country’s highest sporting award.  

“There were many people who came out to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic, be it financially or on the ground. They put their lives in danger and gave it their all. These people are extraordinary! So if anyone is looking for inspiration, it is all around, and if you need to find it, you can look for it anywhere.” 

Since making his debut for the National team against Pakistan in Quetta on June 12, 2005, Sunil has been a trailblazer for the country’s national football team.

With 80 international goals, he is currently tied with Lionel Messi at the second place in the goal scorers list among active footballers, only behind Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 115 goals. 

“I am just happy that I get the opportunity to score for my country. That is about it! To see my name on the big screen, even for just five seconds, and to know I have just contributed in some manner for my country, is all that I need," said Chhetri.

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The 37-year-old, one of the 12 awardees of the award, became the first Indian Footballer to receive the Award, which will be given as part of the National Sports Awards to be held on November 13. 

“I am thrilled, I am really thankful and honoured.  I have always said that it is a dream that I have gone through, and it would not have been possible without my family, my friends, my wife, my close group, the teammates that I have had and the coaches that I have played under. They have all played an important part in who I am today.” 

“It has been amazing to play for the National Team, for so many years, for the number of matches, it has been an outstanding journey,” he added.