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Real legend of the game: Sports world pays tribute to Sunil Chhetri

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New Delhi: Batting maestro Virat Kohli, 2011 World Cup hero Yuvraj Singh and former star footballer Bhaichung Bhutia were among the leading sports personalities who lauded Sunil Chhetri's achievements after the iconic India striker on Thursday announced his decision to retire from international football.

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Chhetri, the long-serving national team captain announced his decision to call it a day after the FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Kuwait in Kolkata on June 6.

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Commenting on Chhetri's video post on Instagram, Kohli wrote for his good friend: "My brother. Proud."

Yuvrai called him a legend, saying the legacy of the 39-year-old veteran of 150 national appearances will remain for a very long time.

"A real legend of the game who took Indian football onto the global stage. Your passion has inspired a generation to take up the game... your legacy in Indian sports will be remembered forever...you can look back with pride as you get set for your final game, thank you legend," wrote Yuvraj in an Instagram story.

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Chhetri, who made his international debut in 2005, has scored 94 goals for the country. He will leave the scene as India's all-time top scorer and most-capped player.

Legendary India forward Bhutia, who Chhetri succeeded as captain, told PTI that it was a great loss for Indian football.

"Sunil, no doubt, will go down as one of the greatest players India had ever produced. His contribution to Indian football is immense. It's a great loss for Indian football," said Bhutia, the former India captain.

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"I am fortunate to have played with him as senior player. When I came in (I M) Vijayan was senior to me, after that Sunil (Chhetri) came. I am fortunate to have served Indian football in between two stalwarts of Indian football," added Bhutia.

Cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal, member of the India squad for the T20 World Cup, wished Chhetri a "happy retirement".

"What a run you have had! Congratulations on an amazing career," wrote Chahal on 'X'.

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Chhetri's Bengaluru FC and India team-mate, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, wished he could change his compatriot's mind.

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"Never wanted to see this happen, I wish I could do something to change your mind but I also understand why it is happening bhai. The whole country needs to celebrate your international career on the 6th of June the way you deserve. My Captain," Sandhu wrote on 'X'.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) said Chhetri will continue to motivate the coming generations.

"Your legacy on and off-the-field will always be remembered! You have always been and will continue to inspire us. Thank you." BCCI termed Chhetri a "phenomenal icon", saying his "career has been nothing short of extraordinary and you have been a phenomenal icon for Indian football and Indian sports."

 India spinner Kuldeep Yadav congratulated the legend on a "fantastic career".

IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bengaluru saluted the No. 11 jersey, saying, "What a ride this has been, skipper! 94 international goals, so many laurels, an unbroken conviction and you've inspired so many young Indians to dream big. Happy farewell to the No.11 (No.9) but India's 1," wrote RCB on 'X'.

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