India and Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri is on the verge of surpassing Bhaichung Bhutia’s record of scoring most goals by an Indian in a single edition of the National Football League (NFL) or I-League. The Indian football icon scored 14 goals for JCT in the inaugural NFL season in 1996-97 and that tally is yet to be bettered.
Sunil’s current tally this season is 13 and he has four matches to score two more and break the 17-year long record. The Arjuna Awardee has already equalled the record of most goals scored by an Indian in a single I-League season (since 2007-08).
Previously Mohammed Rafi (Mahindra United – 2009-10) and Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indian Arrows – 2010-11) have scored 13 each in one campaign.
Sunil is also aiming to become only the third Indian to finish as the highest scorer in a single NFL or I-League season and the first to do so in the I-League era. The first two editions of the NFL – Bhaichung Bhutia (1996-97) and Raman Vijayan (1997-98) – saw Indians finishing as top scorers but for the last 15 seasons that accolade has gone to a foreigner.
Here is a complete list showing the Indian highest scorer in each campaign. Bhaichung has been the top scorer from India on five occasions while Sunil and Raman Vijayan have achieved it twice each with the former set to do it for a third time this season.
|1996-97||Bhaichung Bhutia (JCT)*||14|
|1997-98||Raman Vijayan (FC Kochin)*||10|
|1998-99||Raman Vijayan (East Bengal)||10|
|1999-00||Francis Silveira (Churchill Brothers)||10|
|2000-01||RC Prakash (Mohun Bagan)||10|
|2001-02||Praveen Kumar (Punjab Police) & Alex Ambrose (Salgaocar)||7|
|2002-03||Ashim Biswas (Tollygunge Agragami)||11|
|2003-04||Bhaichung Bhutia (East Bengal)||12|
|2004-05||Bhaichung Bhutia (East Bengal)||9|
|2005-06||Bhaichung Bhutia (East Bengal)||12|
|2006-07||Sunil Chhetri (JCT)||11|
|2007-08||Bhaichung Bhutia (Mohun Bagan)||9|
|2008-09||Sunil Chhetri (East Bengal)||9|
|2009-10||Mohammed Rafi (Mahindra United)||13|
|2010-11||Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indian Arrows)||13|
|2011-12||CS Sabeeth (Pailan Arrows)||9|
|2012-13||CK Vineeth (United SC)||7|
|2013-14||Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)**||13|
* Finished as overall highest scorer
** Season still active
The reigning AIFF player of the year still needs 13 more goals to become the highest Indian scorer in the combined history of the NFL and I-League. Unsurprisingly that record also belongs to Bhaichung, who has scored 88 times, playing in 12 editions for four different clubs – JCT, East Bengal (three spells), Mohun Bagan (two spells), and United Sikkim (as player, coach and co-owner).
Sunil is also in his 12th top-flight campaign and has featured for seven different clubs – Mohun Bagan (twice), JCT, East Bengal, Dempo, United SC, Churchill Brothers and Bengaluru FC and has 76 goals to his name. In two of those seasons he has played on loan from foreign clubs in only the latter parts of the campaign – (Kansas City Wizards to United SC in 2010-11) & (Sporting Lisbon ‘B’ to Churchill Brothers in 2012-13).