The Captain of the Indian Football Team, Sunil Chhetri, became the first footballer to receive the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award. The list of the recipients for the National Sports Awards 2021 was announced by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs on its social media platforms. All the recipients would receive their awards on November 14, in a special ceremony organized in the Darbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna is the highest sporting honour in the country. It is awarded to sportspersons who have displayed a "spectacular and most outstanding performance in the field of sports for four years" at the international level.
More Than 80 Goals In 125 National Appearances
Currently, Chhetri is the second-highest goalscorer in International Football along with Lionel Messi. So far, the 37-year-old captain has scored more than 80 goals in 125 appearances for the national team. He has contributed significantly to the sport, both on and off the field. He has inspired millions of aspirants to take up the game professionally and nurtured young talent to hone their skills in the game.
The All-India Football Federation (AIFF) and other aggregators related to Indian Football congratulated the captain for the tremendous feat. The Free Press Journal quoted Chhetri saying, "I am thrilled, I am thankful and honoured," he averred. "I have always said that it is a dream that I have gone through, and it would not have been possible without my family, my friends, my wife, my close group, the teammates that I have had and the coaches that I have played under. They have all played an important part in who I am today".
Other Recipients Of The Highest Sporting Honour
Other 11 recipients of Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award are Neeraj Chopra (Athletics), Ravi Dahiya (Wrestling), PR Sreejesh (Hockey), Lovlina Borgohain (Boxing), Mithali Raj (Cricket), Pramod Bhagat (Para-Badminton), Sumit Antil (Para-Javelin), Avani Lekhara (Para-Shooting), Krishna Nagar (Para-Badminton), M Narwal (Para-Shooting) and Manpreet Singh (Hockey).