There is no denying the fact that Sunil Chhetri has done wonders for the Indian football team but it was Bhaichung Bhutia who almost single-handedly carried forward the side and helped them in scripting several memorable victories. As the former India football team captain celebrates his 46th birthday today, we take a look at some of his achievements and intriguing facts.
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-Bhaichung earned the nickname ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ because of his lethal finishing. At the age of nine, Bhaichung Bhutia won a football scholarship from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to attend the Tashi Namgyal Academy in Gangtok
– His outstanding performance at the 1992 Subroto Cup earned him the Best Player Award. Bhaichung has made a total of 104 appearances for the Indian national football team and scored 40 goals across all competitions.
– Bhaichung Bhutia tied the knot with his long-time girlfriend, Madhuri Tipnis on December 30, 2004.
– At the age of 19, Bhaichung Bhutia made his international debut. Bhaichung also became India’s youngest goalscorer when he netted against Uzbekistan in his debut game in the 1995 Nehru Cup.
– In 1997, he became the first footballer to score a hat-trick in the electrifying Kolkata derby. The striker scored thrice against Mohun Bagan during the 1997 Federation Cup semi-final encounter.
– He was honoured with the Padma Shri Award in 2008. Bhaichung Bhutia was awarded the Banga Bhushan award in 2014. He was inducted into the Asian Football Federation’s (AFC) Hall of Fame that year. He was also the first Indian footballer to achieve this feat.
– In 1999, he became the first-ever Indian footballer to play for a European football club after he was signed by English side Bury FC.
– Bhaichung Bhutia is a two-time All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year winner, 1995 and 2008. He also became the first-ever Indian football player to play 100 international matches.
– He had guided East Bengal to the prestigious ASEAN Club Championship in 2003. Bhaichung won the Golden Boot award during the competition. And with this, he became the only Indian to win a Golden Boot in a global football tournament.
– Bhaichung Bhutia announced his formal retirement from international football in 2011 and a farewell match was held against Bayern Munich in 2012 for him. The Bundesliga giants gifted him a ‘number 15’ jersey with his name and the signature of the entire Bayern squad.
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