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Playing for 19 years primary reason behind my Khel Ratna, says Sunil Chhetri

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New Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS) After becoming the first Indian footballer to receive the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award on Saturday, Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri said playing for 19 years is the primary reason why he was named for the prestigious award.

Chhetri on 80 goals is currently tied with Lionel Messi at the second place in the goalscorers list among active footballers at the international level, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading on 115 goals. He had earlier been conferred with the Padma Shri Award and the Arjuna Award.

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“One of the primary reasons why I got the Khel Ratna Award is because I have been playing for 19 years. I want to thank each one of the masseurs, physios, and doctors. You superstars have been the main reason why I could be on the pitch,” said Chhetri.

“There have been so many times when I thought I couldn’t, but you guys made it possible for me.

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“I also need to thank all my clubs, my teammates — both at the clubs and the National Team, the fans and the family. All these years you have suffered with me, rejoiced with me, you were there with me at every ups and downs, you dreamt with me — and I very happily share this Award with each and every one of you,” Chhetri said.

For the record, Chhetri is the first Indian Footballer to have received the Award – the highest Award for a sportsman in India.

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In his statement, AIFF President Praful Patel said: “Congratulations! No one deserves it more than Sunil. He has been the flag bearer and a role model for Indian Football, having won so many laurels for his country and all his clubs over the years. I wish him all the best in his future endeavours, and look forward together to him leading us to unprecedented glories in near future.”

Kushal Das, General Secretary, All India Football Federation in his statement said: “My heartiest congratulations to him. The Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award is the pinnacle of all sporting awards in the country and Sunil deserves the Award. He is a living legend, and the icon whom all fans look up to. I wish him all the best for his professional and personal life. You have been a true flag-bearer for Indian Football.”

“I expect this award to be a motivation to all other Indian footballers, and inspire them to reach higher echelons in their career,” the General Secretary added.

Besides Chhetri, Neeraj Chopra, Ravi Kumar Dahiya, Lovlina Borgohain, Sreejesh PR, Avani Lekhara, Sumit Antil, Pramod Bhagat, Krishna Nagar, Manish Narwal, Manpreet Singh, and Mithali Raj were also awarded the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award.

–IANS

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