Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian honour in the country and is awarded every year on India’s Republic Day. Sunil Chhetri is the second highest active goalscorer in the world behind Cristiano Ronaldo and has 67 international goals from 107 appearances.
Chhetri is the sixth footballer to win the accolade. The other five are:
Gostha Paul in 1962: The defender played in the 1920s and 30s and was the first captain of the Indian National Football team. Nicknamed “Chiner Pracheer” (The Wall of China), Gostha is widely considered the best defender ever to have played for India and is also a Mohun Bagan legend.
Sailen Manna in 1971: Named one of the 10 best captains in the world by the English FA in 1953, Sailen Manna has represented India in Olympics and Asian Games. It was under the defender’s captaincy India won the gold medal in the 1951 Asian Games. At club level, Sailen played for Mohun Bagan for 19 years and earned only 19 rupees.
Chuni Goswami in 1983: Subimal Goswami played as a forward for Mohun Bagan and India and also has the distinction of representing Bengal in the Ranji Trophy. Goswami led India to a gold medal in the 1962 Asian Games.
PK Banerjee in 1990: A prolific goalscorer, Pradip Kumar Banerjee has scored 65 goals in 84 appearances for India. He represented India in the 1962 Asian Games where India won the gold medal. Awarded the FIFA Order of Merit in 2004, Banerjee has also coached the Indian team, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.
Bhaichung Bhutia in 2008: One of India’s most influential footballers in the last two decades, Bhaichung is credited with putting Indian football on the map again after the golden era in the 60s. He is only the second Indian player after Mohammed Salim to play professionally in Europe for Bury (1999-2004). In India, he turned up in club livery for East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and JCT Mills. Internationally, he has won the SAFF Championship thrice, the Nehru Cup and the AFC Challenge Cup for the Indian team.
A stadium has been built in his honour in Namchi, Sikkim.