Bhaichung Bhutia, also known as the “Sikkimese Sniper”, is a former Indian national footballer and is considered as the epitome of the rise of Indian football.
He was born on 15 December 1976 in Tinkitam, Sikkim and 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 the father-figure of Indian football.
Bhaichung has also captained the national side and currently plays the role of manager at the Sikkim state football club.
Bhaichung was not only good at football, but also represented his school at basketball, badminton and athletics.
His uncle Karma Bhutia managed Gangtok-based Boys Club where Bhaichung played in his early years.
Bhaichung played for several other local school teams and clubs and brought attention to himself in the 1992 Subroto Cup where he received the ”Best Player” award.
His talent was spotted by former Indian goalkeeper Bhaskar Ganguly and helped Bhutia move to West Bengal where he would play most of his career.
Bhutia has represented the following teams - India, East Bengal, JCT Mills, Bury, Mohun Bagan, Perak FA, Selangor MK Land, and United Sikkim.
Bhaichung Bhutia made his club professional debut in 1993 for Calcutta-based East Bengal where he would make nine appearances, scoring 4 goals in the league.
His debut for the club would mark the beginning of a career that mostly wandered from Mohun Bagan and back to East Bengal.
Bhutia made his international debut on 10 March 1995 against Thailand in the Nehru Cup. He was just 19 years of age. In the same tournament, Bhutia scored a goal against Uzbekistan to become the youngest ever Indian goalscorer at 19 years of age.
Rise to Glory
Having made his debut for the national team at just 19 years of age, Bhaichung showed some bright signs of helping Indian football rise. He went on to play some superb football for both club and country, and would become one of India’s best ever players.
Bhutia scored just one goal in his debut tournament, and scored his second in the same tournament two years later against Bangladesh in the finals. In the 2002 LG Cup, Bhutia netted a brace against Vietnam, helping India to a 3-2 win.
Bhutia was made captain of the team for 2005 SAFF Championship. India won the championship again, with Bangladesh again reaching the finals and losing to India 2-0.
Bhutia scored one of the goals and was a part of the two goals he scored in the tournament. In the 2008 edition of the tournament, Bhutia scored just one goal, and helped India reach the finals where they lost to Maldives 1-0.
Bhaichung won the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup and was selected as the most valuable player of the tournament with three goals. Bhutia’s 100th cap came in 2009, in the Nehru Cup. He was the first player to reach the milestone. He became the Player of the Tournament in spite of missing out on the final.
Bhutia has made a total of 104 appearances for the national side and scored 40 goals in all competitions.
Bhaichung Bhutia played most of his club career in West Bengal, switching from Mohun Bagan to East Bengal several times, and causing controversies doing it. He also played for other clubs like JCT Mills, United Sikkim, and two other Malaysian clubs.
In 1999, Bhutia became the first ever Indian player to sign a professional contract in Europe when he signed for Manchester-based side Bury, where he would spend 3 seasons. He made 37 appearances for them in the league and managed to score only 3 goals. After the failure in Europe, Bhutia decided it was best for him to return to India, once again to East Bengal.
In Malaysia, Bhutia played for Perak FA on loan from Mohun Bagan, and then played for Selangor MK Land. He scored a total of 5 goals in 13 appearances for both sides. In his split career at East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, Bhutia scored 52 goals from 97 games and 25 goals from 56 games respectively.
In 2012, Bhutia signed for United Sikkim, where he would make only 3 appearances owing to injuries. He was made interim manager of the team in the same year, which marked Bhutia’s managerial debut. He currently manages the Sikkim state football team. Bhutia has had an illustrious club career that involves a massive 226 league games and a 100 goals from them.
Bhutia announces his retirement from international football in 2011. A farewell match was held for him in January 2012 against Bayern Munich. Bhutia then played his last club match at United Sikkim in 2015, which marked the end of his glorious career.
He currently is on a managerial venture at Sikkim and has founded the Bhaichung Bhutia Soccer Schools to help nurture young talent.