Bhaichung Bhutia, also known as the ‘Sikkimese Sniper’, is a former Indian professional footballer and is considered the torchbearer of the Indian football. Born on December 15, 1976, he has not displayed his striking skills on the field but also to the emergence and contribution to the football scene in the country.
The former skipper of the Indian football team played as a striker all his career. Bhutia is known for his powerful shots and his pinpoint accuracy in front of goal. His hunger for goals and his passion for the game made him one of the best footballers of India.
Bhutia made his club professional debut in 1993 for Calcutta-based East Bengal and his international debut on March 10, 1995, against Thailand in the Nehru Cup. He became the first footballer from India to sign a professional contract with a European club and only second from the country to play professionally in Europe after Mohammed Salim.
Bhutia announced his retirement from international football in 2011. A farewell match was held for him in January 2012 against Bayern Munich. He then played his last club match at United Sikkim in 2015, which marked the end of his glorious career. He is the recipient of the prestigious Arjuna Award (1988), Banga the Padma Shri (2008) and Padma Bhushan (2014), among others.
As Bhutia celebrates his 44th birthday, take a look at some unknown facts about the former Indian captain.
- He initially played football, badminton, basketball and athletics for his school team before shifting focus to football.
- Bhaichung Bhutia was the youngest international goal scorer for India. He was 18 years and 90 days old.
- Bhutia holds the record of scoring most individual goals five in a single match in Indian domestic football circuit.
- He is India's fourth-highest international goal scorer with 40 goals to his name.
- He joined Bury FC in 1999, making him the first Indian footballer to sign a professional contract with a European club.
- He participated and won the Jhalak Dikhla Jaa reality dance television show in 2009 while at Mohun Bagan.
- He has a football stadium named after him in honour of his contribution to Indian football, the first player to have such honour while he is still playing.