Indian Football

Sunil Chhetri and Bala Devi to be nominated for India's national sporting honours

Mudeet Arora
Sunil Chhetri and Bala Devi nominated for India's greatest national sporting awards.
Sunil Chhetri and Bala Devi nominated for India's greatest national sporting awards. / Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images and Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images

India football legend and men's team captain Sunil Chhetri will be nominated by the All India Football Federation for this year's Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting honour.

Along with Chhetri, national women's football team striker Bala Devi, who became the first ever Indian woman to play for a top flight league in Europe when she joined Scottish giants Rangers in January 2020, will be recommended for the Arjuna Award, which stands as a recognition of merit on a national scale.

ANI quoted sources within AIFF on Wednesday, stating: "We will be proposing the name of Sunil Chhetri for Khel Ratna. We are yet to submit the documents. We will also put forward the name of Bala Devi for the Arjuna Award."

Chhetri, 36, is the greatest international goalscorer India has ever produced, netting 74 goals in 118 international matches.

Currently, he is the fourth highest active international goalscorer on the planet, behind Cristiano Ronaldo (109), UAE's Ali Mabkhout (76) and Lionel Messi (75).

Earlier, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports had postponed their last date of applications for the upcoming National Sports Awards from June 21. However, applications are now being processed with Chhetri and Bala Devi being the two footballers among a list of legends.

Indian football team captain Chhetri has already won the prestigious Padma Shri in 2019, the country's fourth highest civilian honour. This came after he was conferred the Arjuna Award for sporting excellence in 2011.

On the other hand, 31-year-old Bala Devi has been nominated for a national level honour for the first time in her career. She has played 38 official games for India, scoring 36 goals.

At club level, Devi has made 56 appearances for clubs like Manipur Police, Eastern Sporting Union, KRYPHSA and Rangers, scoring 44 goals in total, making her the greatest woman footballer in India's history.