Baichung Bhutia is an Indian footballer of Sikkimese-Bhutia descent who plays as a striker. He is considered to be a good inspiration of Indian football in the international arena. He is named as ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ because of his shooting skills in football. Bhutia is described as “God’s gift to Indian football” by three-time Indian Player of the Year I. M. Vijayan. He is also India’s most capped player, with 104 international caps to his name, and in 2009 Nehru Cup he received his 100th international cap. Bhutia, who has a football stadium named after him in honour of his contribution to Indian football, has also won many awards, such as the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri. He will be soon seen in Khatron Ke Khiladi season 7.
Bhaichung Bhutia was born on 15 December 1976 in Tinkitam, Sikkim, India. The name “Baichung” literally means “little brother”. He has done his schooling at boarding school and St. Xaviers School, Pakyong, East Sikkim. Apart from football, he also represented his school at badminton, basketball and athletics. At a tender age of nine he won a football scholarship from SAI to attend the Tashi Namgyal Academy in Gangtok. He has won the “Best Player” award for his performance at 1992 Subroto Cup, which made him to gain fame in football.
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. He was the top goalscorer in the league and was chosen to make his international debut in the Nehru Cup. He became team captain in the 1998-99 season, during which East Bengal finished second behind Salgaocar in the league. 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.
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. On 18 May 2009, Bhutia announced he would quit Mohun Bagan, due to the questioning of his footballing commitment by the club’s officials. In 2011, Bhutia joined United Sikkim as coach and Manager.
Baichung made his senior international debut in the Nehru Cup against Thailand at the age of 19 in 10 March 1995. He scored for India against Uzbekistan in the 1995 Nehru Cup becoming India’s youngest ever goalscorer, at 19. With his best scoring, he was named as the tournament’s most valuable player. The football tournament of the 2003 Afro-Asian Games saw India finish as runners-up behind Uzbekistan. After the Asian Cup, he announced his retirement for India on 24 August 2011 with a record of 42 goals in 107 appearances.