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Saturday, July 20, 2024

India captain Sunil Chhetri signs Bengaluru FC extension


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Bengaluru: India captain Sunil Chhetri signed for Bengaluru FC for a new one-year extension with the club, with an option of an additional year, the club announced on Monday.

Chhetri, who turns 39 in August, unveiled a banner at the Kanteerava Stadium after India’s win over Lebanon in the SAFF Championship semifinal on Saturday, stating his decision to stay at the club with which he has won seven trophies.

“I have signed a Bengaluru FC contract a fair few times, and what I can tell you is that it always feels special, even when it probably should not, given it is a formality. I am so happy that I will be spending two more years here. The fans have been such a vital factor in this decision. Over the years, there have been some generous offers from some very good clubs, but the fact that I couldn’t even think of going anywhere made me realize the influence our fans have had on that decision,” Chhetri said, after putting pen to paper on his deal.

Prolific striker Chhetri, who joined as club captain at the time of its inception in 2013, is the Blues’ longest serving player, having been part of 10 seasons with the club. During this period, he has won the I-League (2014, 2016), the Federation Cup (2015, 2017), the Super Cup (2018), Indian Super League (2019) and most recently the Durand Cup (2022).

“This city, the club and all the people involved with it – we’re such a solid bond. And as a footballer,

to get that, is very rare and special. I am fortunate, grateful and happy, and I hope that everyone associated with this family feels the same way about this extension,” Chhetri added.

The longest-standing association in Indian football, Chhetri has over 250 appearances for Bengaluru FC across competitions, scoring 116 goals in the process. The talismanic striker was also the club’s top-scorer on seven occasions.

“It is an absolute honour and privilege for us at Bengaluru FC that Sunil Chhetri has chosen to extend his stay with the club. He has been the face of this football club, and continues to be its flag bearer. In so many ways, Bengaluru FC and Sunil Chhetri are inseparable, and we’re sure he will be at the end of many more memorable and successful moments with a team that he’s made his own,” said club owner, Parth Jindal.

“All the emotions aside, the Sunil I know, still has unfinished business at Bengaluru. When he does call it a day, we want to be able to have given him an ISL Shield and a run out in the AFC Champions League to add to all that he has achieved with us. It’s what he deserves, and it’s what we will work together to deliver,” he added.

The banner unveiled on Saturday, which served as a surprise to the Blues’ faithful at the Kanteerava Stadium, read (Bengaluru), I’m going nowhere. Sunil Chhetri’, and was also followed by a video on the club’s Social Media handles.

“It’s fantastic news that Sunil has signed a new deal at the club. He’s the ultimate role model both on and off the pitch, and a fine example to all Indian players; not just professionally but also at the grassroots level. His hunger and desire is still as strong as ever, and that’s been proven over the last few weeks with the national team. I can’t wait to get back to working with him,” said Blues’ boss Simon Grayson.

Chhetri, who is in action with India at the SAFF Championship, will take on Kuwait in the final on Tuesday and is the current top-scorer of the tournament with five goals in four games.

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