Sushil Kumar Singh :
Another young striker who along with Jeje Lalpekhlua was considered to be future strikeforce of Indian football. He played a vital role in the 2011 SAFF Cup, but didn’t get much chances in the national team after that. He briefly featured for Mumbai City FC in the ISL. In 2016, he signed for NEROCA and played till 2018. Since then he has been without a club.
Bhaichung Bhutia :
The ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ Bhaiching Bhutia was the captain of the AFC Challenge Cup 2008 team. At that point of time, he was already the poster boy of Indian football. He became the first Indian to play in the English second division and also to score in it. After stints in Malaysia, he became the talisman of the national team. He scored a total of 3 goals in the tournament including one in the final of the Challenge Cup.
Only Sunil Chhetri has more international appearances than him. He retired from international football in 2011 as a legend in Indian football. He is third in the all time goalscorers for India, only behind Chhetri and IM Vijayan. Having established as a lethal striker during his early days at East Bengal, Bhutia had an illustrious 20 year career scoring plenty of goals.
After his retirement in 2013, he turned into politics and has also opened and runs numerous football schools across the country.
Sunil Chhetri :
An Indian football legend who has won almost everything an Indian footballer could expect of. The young striker who scored the hat-trick against Tajikistan in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup 2008 is now an Indian football legend by all means and is still the best player in the country at 36 !
He is now a well known player in Indian football and his long career gets better every season. A record 7 times Indian Player of the Year, record number of goals and appearances for the country are just a few of his numerous achievements.
While most of the players from the Challenge Cup squad have retired, Sunil Chhetri stands out from everyone else in the squad by captaining both the Indian national team and Bengaluru FC. The best part is that he still delivers for the team and in spite of being one of the oldest active Indian players, he is the best in the country even now.
The fantastic victory of the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008 instilled a great deal of confidence for the Indian national team in general. The squad stuck together for quite sometime, adding on youngsters like Jeje Lalpekhlua in the coming years. In 2015, the national team was given a complete makeover with the then coach Stephen Constantine giving debuts to more than 30 youngsters changing the core of the national team. Though they couldn’t repeat the AFC Challenge Cup success in 2011 and 2014, India managed to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup after the format for qualification and number of places were changed. India will look forward to qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup like they did in the last edition.