NEW DELHI, May 16 — India captain Sunil Chhetri, the country’s all-time leading scorer, will retire from international football after the World Cup qualifier against Kuwait next month, the 39-year-old said on Thursday.

Chhetri has been the face of Indian football for nearly a decade-and-half and his 94 international goals make him the third-highest active international scorer after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

“When the instinct came this should be my last game, I thought about it a lot and eventually I came to this decision,” Chhetri said in a video on social media.

“Will I be sad after this? Of course...the kid inside me never wants to stop if given a chance to play for his country. It’s time for our country to see the next number nine.”

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Chhetri will play his last international in Kolkata, where he kickstarted his professional career at Mohun Bagan more than two decades ago.

India, currently second, finish their Group A campaign against leaders Qatar away on June 11.

“We have got to win at home to give us a great chance of qualifying for the third round,” he said.

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“Once we do that, it will be good to think back and remember that my last game was an important one.”

Known for his remarkable fitness and hunger for goals, Chhetri scored a hat-trick against Tajikistan in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup final to help India qualify for the Asian Cup after a 25-year absence.

Chhetri is also India’s most-capped player having played 150 internationals since 2005.

“Your legacy on and off-the-field will always be remembered,” the All India Football Federation (AIFF) said in a post on X.

“Thank you @chetrisunil11 for your leadership, dedication and commitment to Indian football.” — Reuters