Birthday Boy Bhaichung Bhutia
Happy Birthday Bhaichung Bhutia
Today the Former Indian Football Team Captain celebrating his 41st birthday. Let we see his contributions towards football.
Bhaichung Bhutia was born on 15 December 1976 in Tinkitam, Sikkim. In addition to football, Bhutia also represented his school at badminton, basketball and athletics. He has two older brothers, Chewang and Bom Bom Bhutia, and one younger sister named Cali. His parents, both farmers in Sikkim, were originally not keen on Bhutia’s interest in sports. His father died but after encouragement from his uncle, Karma Bhutia, he started his education in St. Xavier’s School, Pakyong, East Sikkim, and at the age of nine he won a football scholarship from SAI to attend the Tashi Namgyal Academy in Gangtok. He went on to play for several school and local clubs in his home state of Sikkim, including the Gangtok-based Boys Club, which was managed by Karma. His performance at the 1992 Subroto Cup, where he won the “Best Player” award, brought him to the notice of the football establishment. Former India goalkeeper Bhaskar Ganguly spotted his talent and helped him make the transition to Calcutta football. Bhutia is married to Madhuri Tipnis.
In 1993, at the age of sixteen, he left school to join the professional East Bengal F.C. in Calcutta. Two years later, he transferred to JCT Mills in Phagwara, which went on to win the India National Football League in the 1996–97 season. Bhutia was the top goalscorer in the league and was chosen to make his international debut in the Nehru Cup. He was named “1996 Indian Player of the Year”. In 1997, he returned to East Bengal. Bhutia has the distinction of scoring the first hat-trick in the local derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan when he registered one in East Bengal’s 4–1 victory in the 1997 Federation Cup semi-final. He became team captain in the 1998–99 season, during which East Bengal finished second behind Salgaocar in the league. Furthermore, he became the 19th footballer to receive the Arjuna Award in 1999, which the Government of India gives out to athletes to recognise their “outstanding achievements” in national sports.
Bhutia has had limited opportunities in playing overseas. On 30 September 1999, he travelled overseas to play for Bury in Greater Manchester, England. He became only the second Indian footballer to play professionally in Europe after Mohammed Salim. By penning a three-year contract he also became the first Indian footballer to sign for a European club. This followed unsuccessful trials for Bhutia with Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa. He had difficulty obtaining a visa and could not make his debut, until 3 October 1999 against Cardiff City. In that match, he came on as a substitute for Ian Lawson and played a part in Bury’s second goal, which was scored by Darren Bullock after Bhutia’s volley was deflected into his path. On 15 April 2000, he scored his first goal in the English league in the game against Chesterfield. A recurring knee injury limited him to only three games in his final season at Bury, and he was released after the club was placed in administration. His final appearance was a 3–0 defeat to Swindon Town on 27 August 2001.
In 2002, he returned to India and played for the Mohun Bagan for a year. However, this was largely unsuccessful as Bhutia was injured early in the season and failed to play again that season, missing Mohun Bagan’s only trophy win; the All Airlines Gold Cup.
Return to East Bengal
Afterwards, he again returned to the East Bengal Club, helping them to win the ASEAN Club Championship. Bhutia scored a goal in the final, a 3–1 win over Tero Sasana, and was named the “man of the match”. He also finished as the top scorer of the Championship with nine goals. Bhutia also scored in the 1–1 draw against Petrokimia Putra and scored five goals in a 6–0 win against Philippine Army in the same tournament.
He signed up to play for Perak FA, the Malaysian championship club, from August to October 2003 on loan and returned to East Bengal Club for the regular season. However, his stint at Perak FA ended in a 3–1 defeat against Sabah FA in the Malaysia Cup semi-finals, after which Bhutia described himself as the “villain of the piece”. In the 2003–04 season, Bhutia scored 12 goals as East Bengal won the league by four points from second-placed Dempo. During the 2004–05 season, Bhutia scored nine goals for East Bengal, which finished in third place behind SC Goa and champions Dempo. He continued to play for East Bengal until the end of the 2005–06 season. In his final season where he was awarded the “Player of the National Football League” by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in a season where he scored 12 goals Despite this, East Bengal finished runners-up to Mahindra United in the league.
Selangor MK Land
In 2005, Bhutia signed for another Malaysian club, Selangor MK Land. He made five appearances only, scoring one goal, as the club had monetary problems. Before, he received an offer from then Home United manager Steve Darby but rejected the offer. Darby later revealed that he failed to sign Bhutia because the offer he made was less than what he was getting in India that time.
Return to Mohun Bagan
On 15 June 2006, he joined Mohun Bagan and formed an attacking partnership with Jose Ramirez Barreto. However, the 2006–07 season was a poor one for Bhutia and Mohun Bagan as they finished eighth in the league, just one position above relegation. During the 2007–08 season (the league was now known as the I-League), Bhutia scored 10 goals in 18 matches, and Mohun Bagan finished slightly higher in the league in fourth place. Bhutia won the Indian Player of the Year for the second time in 2008. In winning the award, he became only the second footballer to win it more than once; the other was I. M. Vijayan. In the 2008–09 season, despite a 10-match winning streak, Mohun Bagan finished in second place behind Churchill Brothers because of a final day loss to Mahindra United. Bhutia finished the season with six goals. On 18 May 2009, Bhutia announced he would quit Mohun Bagan, due to the questioning of his footballing commitment by the club’s officials. As a result of the Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa incident, he was suspended for six months by Mohun Bagan. Bhutia was quoted saying “It is just a ploy to keep me at Mohun Bagan for another season. But I will not play for them anymore.”
Homecoming to East Bengal
Bhutia was reported to have officially signed for East Bengal on 22 June 2009, on a one-year contract, announcing that he would end his playing career at the club. Upon signing for East Bengal, Bhutia declared it to be his homecoming, “This is really my homecoming. This is the club from where it all started and it is here where it is going to end.” The situation was further complicated, however, as Mohun Bagan’s general secretary Anjan Mitra said: “Our contract with Bhaichung is perfectly legal and he has one more year left with us.” Bhutia’s lawyer Usha Nath Banerjee countered this, “I doubt the legality of Bagan’s contract. In any case, according to FIFA and AIFF rules, a player who is above 28 years of age is free to make a choice of the club in the third year of his contract”. Bhutia and Mohun Bagan were set to meet on 17 August in the AIFF headquarters to settle their differences with AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco. On 29 August, it was announced that the issue had not been resolved yet and the outbound Colaco was set to meet Bhutia on 30 August. No compromise was reached, however, and on 5 September former additional solicitor general Amrendra Sharan was appointed to look into the dispute. On 10 September, Bhutia filed defamation charges, claiming damages of 10 million, against Mohun Bagan for “trying to tarnish his reputation”. Bhutia was granted interim relief on 26 September, but the case between Mohun Bagan and Bhutia is set to continue until a final verdict is reached. On 4 November, it was revealed that Mohun Bagan had approached football’s governing body FIFA to intervene in the dispute with Bhutia. The start of the 2010–11 season would be without Bhutia until the end of January as the Indian national team prepared and participated in the Asian Cup from November to January. Though laid low by injuries in recent months, Bhutia believes he would return next season after taking a three-month break and if he ever decides to quit, he would do it from East Bengal.
Retiring in Red and Gold Colours
On 12 February 2015, it was announced that Bhutia would return to East Bengal for the final time on a half-season contract, after which he would retire from professional football.Having retired from India colours in 2011 against South Korea in the AFC Asian Cup, Bhutia last season said he wished to retire donning red and gold colours “one last time”. But I don’t see that happening. I am really struggling with my knee injury and not in a shape to play the top-tier I-League for East Bengal. You can say that I am not going to play the club again,” Bhutia told reporters at the launch of East Bengal’s residential academy in BA-CA ground in Salt Lake.
Bhaichung made his senior international debut in the Nehru Cup against Thailand at the age of 19 on 10 March 1995. Bhutia scored for India against Uzbekistan in the 1995 Nehru Cup becoming India’s youngest ever goalscorer, at 19. In the 1997 SAFF Championship, India beat the Maldives 5–1 in the final, Bhutia was responsible for one goal. Two years later, the tournament was held in Goa and India successfully defended their title by beating Bangladesh 2–0 in the final. Bhutia scored the second goal for India after Bruno Coutinho opened the scoring and Bhutia was named as the tournament’s most valuable player. He also netted two goals in the final of the 2002 LG Cup held in Vietnam, in which India beat the host nation 3–2, Bhutia’s goals came to either side of half-time. The football tournament of the 2003 Afro-Asian Games saw India finish as runners-up behind Uzbekistan. Bhutia scored two goals in the tournament, both of which came in the 5–3 semi-final win over Zimbabwe. In the 2007 Nehru Cup, Bhutia scored a penalty in a 6–0 victory over Cambodia in the opening match of the tournament. He also scored in a 1–0 win over Bangladesh and a 3–0 win over Kyrgyzstan. Bhutia played a significant part in the final as he was involved in the build-up to N. P. Pradeep’s winning goal against Syria during which India won 1–0 to become champions.
The next successful SAFF Championship was in 2005 where Bhutia was captain, in the group stages he scored a goal in a 3–0 victory over Bhutan but did not score in the other two matches. India progressed to the semi-finals during which Bhutia played in the 1–0 win over the Maldives. The final was a repeat of the 1999 final, as Bangladesh were the opposition, and once again India triumphed 2–0 during which Bhutia scored the second goal in the 81st minute from close range after Mehrajuddin Wadoo’s 33rd-minute opener. He received the award for the Most Valuable Player and also the Fair Play trophy. The 2008 SAFF Championship started with a 4–0 win over neighbouring Nepal, Bhutia scored the second goal in the 34th minute. It turned out to be Bhutia’s only goal of the tournament, however, he did have several chances to score in the semi-final against Bhutan which saw India win 2–1 to reach the final. In the final, India failed to defend their title after losing 1–0 to the Maldives. He scored twice in a 2–1 victory in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup against Turkmenistan to reach the semi-finals. The Sikkimese Sniper scored a goal in the final against Tajikistan, during which India won 4–1 thanks to a Sunil Chhetri hat-trick; the victory also allowed them to automatically qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. He was also selected as the most valuable player of the tournament, finishing with three goals.
The 2009 Nehru Cup was significant for Bhutia, as he earned his 100th cap for India in a 2–1 win over Kyrgyzstan, becoming the first Indian player to reach this milestone. He also scored the first goal in this match to help the team recover from their opening day defeat to Lebanon. In the match against Sri Lanka, Bhutia again scored an opening goal which helped India to win 3–1 and solidified their chances of reaching the final. He was adjudged as the “man of the match” for his performance. Bhutia missed the final match of the round-robin, as India were already guaranteed a spot in the deciding match. He was also adjudged as “Player of the Tournament” for his stellar performances in all of the matches, including the decider where they beat Syria in a penalty shootout.
At the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, Bhutia was injured for their first two games against Australia and Bahrain, but he came on as a second-half substitute against South Korea, but failed to save India, losing 4–1 as they were eliminated. Shortly after the Asian Cup, he announced his retirement from India on 24 August 2011 with a record of 40 goals in 104 appearances.
In August 2011, Bhutia announced his retirement from international football. His farewell match was with the India national team on 10 January 2012 against Bayern Munich at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi.
God’s Gift to Indian Football
Bhutia is considered to be the torchbearer of Indian football in the international arena. He is often nicknamed the Sikkimese Sniper because of his shooting skills in football. Three-time Indian Player of the Year I. M. Vijayan described Bhutia as “God’s gift to Indian football”. Bhaichung Bhutia has an older brother named Chewang Bhutia.
Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools
On 28 October 2010, he started Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools in Delhi in partnership with Carlos Queiroz and Nike.
Bhutia received Arjuna Award in 1998. In 2008 he received Padma Shri award. In 2014 Bhutia had received Banga Bhushan. He was named as an Inductee in Asian Football Hall of Fame. He was named as one of the inductee players in IFFHS among 48 players in 2016.