Chhetri, Bhaichung, and others: Most-capped Indian footballers

Only two Indian players -- Sunil Chhetri (115) and Bhaichung Bhutia (107) -- have more than 100 international appearances to their name.

Sunil Chhetri Chhetri (right) surpassed Bhaichung Bhutia’s earlier record of 107 caps on June 5, 2019.   -  PRASHANT NAKWE

Indian national team’s current captain Sunil Chhetri is the longest-serving international in the country, followed by Bhaichung Bhutia, whose record Chhetri broke in 2019. Interestingly, all of the top five highest-capped Indian internationals are attacking players. Here’s a list with some details:

Sunil Chhetri - 115 international caps

The current national team’s skipper Sunil Chhetri is India’s most-capped player with 115 appearances. Chhetri, who has scored 72 goals in his career so far, surpassed Bhaichung Bhutia’s earlier record of 107 caps when he featured against Curacao in the King’s Cup in Thailand on June 5, 2019.

 

The 35-year-old has been part of the senior national team set-up since 2005 and has won the AFC Challenge Cup (2008), SAFF Championship (2011, 2015), and the Nehru Cup (2007, 2009, 2012) with the Blue Tigers.

The mainstay of the national team for years, Chhetri’s individual honours include the Arjuna Award (2011), the Padma Shri (2019), and a six-time AIFF Player of the Year (2006, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018-19).

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Chhetri, for years, has been the most reliable player of the national side, owing to his goal-scoring prowess and the quality of leading by example.

Bhaichung Bhutia - 107 international caps

With 107 national team appearances, Bhaichung Bhutia is the second-most capped Indian player of all-time. Bhutia, who played for India between 1995 and 2011, scored 43 goals.

During his eminent 16-year career, he led India to three SAFF Championship victories (1997, 1999, 2005), two Nehru Cup titles (2007, 2009) and the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup win, which guaranteed a spot in the 2011 Asian Cup.

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Bhutia was the face of Indian football for years, thanks to his goalscoring exploits for clubs and the country alike. (File Photo)   -  RAJEEV BHATT

 

The Sikkim-born striker was a two-time recipient of the AIFF Player of the Year award (1995, 2008) and was also named the AFC Challenge MVP in 2008. His excellence and contribution to Indian football also fetched him the honours of the Arjuna Award (1998) and the Padma Shri (2008).

Bhutia was the face of Indian football for years, thanks to his goalscoring exploits for clubs and the country alike.

I.M. Vijayan - 88 international caps

Inivalappil Mani Vijayan, Kerala’s most celebrated footballer, is third on the list of most caps with 88 international appearances. The lanky striker retired in 2003 and holds the record for scoring the fastest international goal for India (12 seconds).

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In 2003, I.M. Vijayan (left) was honoured with the Arjuna Award. (File Photo)   -  PTI

 

In his prime, I.M. Vijayan would score goals from angles and situations, and baffle markers with his change of pace. He was best known for his exciting free-kicks and overhead volleys.

With the national team, he won the 1999 SAFF Cup and was the top-scorer in the South Asian Games in the same year, with seven strikes. He was also thrice named player of the year by the AIFF (1992, 1997, 200). In 2003, Vijayan was honoured with the Arjuna Award.

Shabbir Ali - 76 international caps

Well-known in the 1970s and 80s, Shabbir Ali is the fourth most-capped Indian international. A prolific striker during playing days, Ali was one of the very few personalities in Indian football who excelled both as a coach and a player.

In the 1974 AFC Youth Championship, he captained the Indian team which was declared the joint-winner alongside Iran. Ali was also part of the Indian sides which participated in several competitions such as Nehru Cup, King’s Cup, Merdeka tournament, and others.

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Shabbir Ali was one of the very few personalities in Indian football who excelled both as a coach and a player. (File Photo)   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVE

 

In 2011, he was awarded the coveted Dhyan Chand Award, the country’s highest award for lifetime achievement in sports.

Climax Lawrence - 72 international caps

Climax Lawrence comes fifth in the list, with 72 international appearances. Midfielder Lawrence scored three goals in his international career which spanned from 2003 to 2011.

The Goan player, who retired at the age of 33, was part of the squad which won the Nehru Cup twice (2007, 2009), in addition to the AFC Challenge Cup (2008). He led the Blue Tigers to victory in the 2011 SAFF Championship.

Lawrence is considered amongst the finest Indian midfielders.

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Midfielder Lawrence (right)scored three goals in his international career which spanned from 2003 to 2011.   -  PTI

 

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