Antony Raphel 7/06/2012 06:52:00 am
In a path-breaking development in Indian football, striker Sunil Chhetri is set to join Portuguese football giants Sporting Lisbon. A deal between the player and the Portuguese club is expected to be finalised in New Delhi on Thursday. No Indian footballer has ever played in a top league in Europe. In 2002, Baichung Bhutia had played for Bury FC, which was playing in England's second division championship at that time.
Sunil Chhetri (born 3 August 1984 in New Delhi) is an Indian footballer who is currently playing for Sporting Clube de Portugal B in the Liga de Honra.
Chhetri started his football career playing for school teams and then for his local club, City Club. Since then, he has represented I-League clubs Mohun Bagan, East Bengal Club and JCT FC. At Mohun Bagan, he scored eight goals over three seasons where the club finished in the bottom half of the league table every time. The next three seasons were spent at JCT where he scored a total of twenty goals including twelve goals in a single season where JCT finished second in the league. This earned him the league's "Player of the Year" award. Afterwards he played for East Bengal and scored seven goals in a season where they finished sixth. For the 2009–10 season, he signed with Dempo SC on a two-year contract. Sunil had signed a three-year contract with Queen's Park Rangers in August 2009. But a work permit was rejected by the UK government.
At international level, Chhetri has represented India in the Nehru Cup, the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup. He received much media attention after scoring a hat-trick in the final of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, which led to an unsuccessful trial at English club Coventry City and speculation linking him with many European and North American clubs. In addition, Chhetri has received awards such as the 2007 All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year.