The Indian Captain Sunil Chhetri has been recommended for the Padma Shri while Jeje Lalpekhlua and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu have been recommended for the Arjuna Award.
The All India Football Federation has decided to recommend India captain Sunil Chhetri for the country’s fourth highest civilian award, the Padma Shri. Chhetri leads the India charts with 56 goals from 97 appearances and has one of the best strike rates in world football.
Chhetri has had a fantastic domestic season where he netted a total of 20 goals in 25 appearances across the Indian Super League and the Super Cup. The striker is the fifth highest goalscorer among active international players, ahead of Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, Netherlands Robin van Persie and Chile’s Alexis Sanchez. He only trails Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, 81 goals), Lionel Messi (Argentina, 61 goals), David Villa (Spain, 59 goals) and Clint Dempsey (USA, 57 goals) and boasts of an average of 0.58 goals per game, which is better than Ronaldo, Messi and Dempsey.
Sunil Chhetri has also lead the country to qualification for AFC Asian Cup 2019, which marks India’s return to the continent’s top competition after a gap of eight year.
“If there is one name in Indian football who deserves to be recommended for such a huge honour, it is undoubtedly Sunil Chhetri. The AIFF recognises Sunil’s contribution and has already looked at the criteria,” as reported by the Times of India.
When contacted, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das also confirmed that the federation has recommended Jeje Lalpekhlua and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s names for the Arjuna Awards.
Asked if Chhetri is being considered by the AIFF for the Padma Shri, Das did not confirm, but, in what seemed a giveaway, lavished high praise on the 33-year-old star striker.
Lalpekhlua won the coveted ISL trophy for the second time in three years with Chennaiyin FC. He scored nine and assisted one during his 21-game campaign for the Marina Machans.
Exclusive with Sunil Chhetri
On the other hand, Gurpreet was Chhetri’s teammate at Bengaluru FC and won the maiden Super Cup, keeping seven clean-sheets over 23 matches in which he stood between the posts for the club. Adding more weight to his candidature is the fact that the shot-stopper became the first Indian to play in the UEFA Europa League and captain a European team, with both accomplishments coming during his time at Norweign side Stabaek FC.
Over the past three decades, there have been nine footballers winning the Arjuna statue on our Republic day. The likes of Baichung Bhutia, Bruno Coutinho and Bembem Devi being the latest to win it. Sunil Chhetri won the Arjuna award in 2011 with his father-in-law winning it back in 1989, a legendary figure in Mohun Bagan’s history.
Elsewhere, Padma Shri is only awarded to selected athletes, let alone the one sweating on the field of Football. There have only been five Padma Shri awardees from this sport, namely Gostho Pal (1962), Sailen Manna (1971), Chuni Goswami (1983), PK Banerjee (1990) and Baichung Bhutia(2008).