Although Sunil Chhetri is in his “bonus period” of a distinguished career, he has not announced his retirement.
Indian football legend Sunil Chhetri acknowledges that he is currently in his “bonus period” of a distinguished career, but he has not announced his retirement. But one thing is for sure: when the football World Cup takes place in 2026, the 39-year-old Chhetri will not be participating. “I’m simply glad to be here. I’m just having fun during this bonus period because I have no idea when it will stop. Before India’s matches later this month in the second round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, Chhetri stated, “I just want to enjoy it.”
“As far as being on the pitch is concerned, I don’t have long-term goals because I’m 39 years old. According to fifa.com, he stated, “I consider the next three months, and then the next three months, and then we see how it goes.
In Group A, along with Afghanistan, Qatar, and Kuwait, is India. On November 16, they travel to Kuwait, and on November 21, they play in Bhubaneswar against Qatar.
The nine groups’ winners and runners-up move on to the third stage of the 2026 World Cup qualifying competition. In the third round, the 18 teams will be split into three groups of six teams each.
While the third and fourth-placed teams move on to the fourth round, which will determine two more Asian qualifiers for the World Cup, the top two teams in each group earn direct berths in 2026.
The next FIFA World Cup takes place in June 2026, and Chhetri is realistic enough to realise that competing in the global showcase may be beyond him. He will be less than two months shy of turning 42.
“I dream more as an Indian and more as a fan. It doesn’t matter if I go in any capacity; I’ll be a fan, I promise. I will be following all of India’s matches and cheering for my nation.
I feel great physically right now. It is evident to me that I do add value to the team—both for my club and my nation. I’ll remain here as long as I’m having fun.
“How many days, months, or years that will be, I have no idea. I’ll be done the day I stop having fun and the day I can’t help.” Since his debut in 2005, Chhetri has appeared in 143 games for India, scoring the most goals of any Indian with 93. At the moment, he trails only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the most prolific goal scorer in active international football.
He claimed that since Igor Stimac became head coach in 2019, the national team has improved.
“Anyone who compares our performances from four years ago to today will tell you there has been a decent jump. And the team as a whole, including Igor Stimac, are to blame for it. Everyone has helped each other out and contributed collectively.
“For individuals like me who are fossils, Stimac is more than just a coach; he is more like a father figure or an older brother. He is aware of this and takes that aspect of his role as a coach extremely seriously.
“He is aware with the psychology of players and recognises their needs and the struggles they face. About Stimac, who assisted Croatia in placing third in the 1998 World Cup, Chhetri remarked, “You will notice that all the players are quite satisfied with him.Away from the pitch of football, in August, Chhetri and his spouse Sonam Bhattacharya welcomed their baby Dhruv. Chhetri claimed the experience altered his outlook on life.”My enthusiasm kept me from sleeping for the first five days. I stayed up all night staring at him and spoke to him. On the sixth day, my wife informed me that I needed to sleep in a different room because she was concerned that I would be too exhausted and hurt.
“It’s the kind of encounter that is only felt. It truly is amazing the first time you hold your newborn. Everything about you changes, including your outlook on life, the moment I held my son for the first time.”Wherever I am, all I want to do is return home. I just want to get through the games and head back home whenever I go on an outing.” Notwithstanding the fact that 48 nations are contending and that Asia has eight direct berths for the 2026 World Cup, Chhetri stated it would be an incredible accomplishment if India makes it.
“The nation will lose its mind when it occurs. It will be one of the greatest days of my life as an Indian. That day is in so many of my dreams. It’s gonna be enormous.
“What I know I will always remember is the hope and eagerness it will bring to the entire country. I just hope that day arrives soon for us because I know that a lot of people are as excited as I am to witness it.”