Indian football’s most prolific & accomplished player Baichung Bhutia said his farewell to international football with a final exhibition match played against visiting German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich held in New Delhi. The man from the tiny hamlet Tinkitam in south Sikkim, who became the face of Indian football, pulled the curtain downs on his illustrious 18-year-old career amid standing ovation during his farewell match against the German giants which ended in a 0-4 loss to the Indian national side.
The 35 year old who captained his national team for a final time, was fresh and chased, lunged and stretched for every ball during the 84 minutes he played. His form was that of during his hey days and he urged his teammaes to give it their all against their much superior opponents. Despite letting in 4 goals during a lopsided first half, the Indians fought for every ball and even challenged the heart of the mighty Bayern defence in the last quarter of the game. As he walked off the pitch at the 84th minute being substituted, the 50,000 strong crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Bhutia is currently contracted by the club he owns, United Sikkim, which he also plays for. Bhutia has had four spells at I-League football team East Bengal Club, the club where he started his career. When he signed up to play for the Englishclub Bury in 1999, he became the first Indian footballer to play professional football in Europe. Afterwards he had a short loan spell at the Malaysianfootball club Perak FA. As well as this he has played for JCT Mills, which won the league once during his tenure; and Mohun Bagan, which failed to win the league once during his two spells, in his native India. His international footballing honours include winning the Nehru Cup, LG Cup, SAFF Championship three times and the AFC Challenge Cup. He is also India’s most capped player, and in the 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 (first player to have such honour while he is still playing), has also won many awards, such as the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri. In October 2010, he founded Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools in Delhi in partnership with football by Carlos Queiroz and Nike.