Baichung Bhutia

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Baichung Bhutia
Bhutia jubiliant after scoring for Mohun Bagan against East Bengal.
Personal information
Full nameBaichung Bhutia[1]
Date of birth(1976-12-15) 15 December 1976 (age 35)
Place of birthTinkitam, Sikkim, India[2]
Height1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)[2]
Playing positionStriker
Club information
Current clubUnited Sikkim
Senior career*
1993–1995East Bengal Club9(4)
1995–1997JCT Mills20(14)
1997–1999East Bengal Club31(15)
2002–2003Mohun Bagan11(6)
2003Perak FA8(4)
2003–2005East Bengal Club38(21)
2005Selangor MK Land5(1)
2005–2006East Bengal Club16(12)
2006–2009Mohun Bagan45(19)
2009–2011East Bengal Club3(0)
2012-United Sikkim0(0)
National team
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 10 January 2012.

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 10 January 2012
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Baichung Bhutia
Bhutia jubiliant after scoring for Mohun Bagan against East Bengal.
Personal information
Full nameBaichung Bhutia[1]
Date of birth(1976-12-15) 15 December 1976 (age 35)
Place of birthTinkitam, Sikkim, India[2]
Height1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)[2]
Playing positionStriker
Club information
Current clubUnited Sikkim
Senior career*
1993–1995East Bengal Club9(4)
1995–1997JCT Mills20(14)
1997–1999East Bengal Club31(15)
2002–2003Mohun Bagan11(6)
2003Perak FA8(4)
2003–2005East Bengal Club38(21)
2005Selangor MK Land5(1)
2005–2006East Bengal Club16(12)
2006–2009Mohun Bagan45(19)
2009–2011East Bengal Club3(0)
2012-United Sikkim0(0)
National team
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 10 January 2012.

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 10 January 2012

Baichung Bhutia (Hindi: बाईचुंग भुटिया; born 15 December 1976) is an Indian footballer who plays as a striker. Bhutia is considered to be the torchbearer of Indian football in the international arena.[3] He is often nicknamed the Sikkimese Sniper because of his shooting skills in football.[4][5] Three-time Indian Player of the Year I. M. Vijayan described Bhutia as "God's gift to Indian football".[6]

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 English club Bury in 1999, he became the first Indian footballer to play professional football in Europe. Afterwards he had a short loan spell at the Malaysian football 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.

Off the field, Bhutia is known for winning the reality television programme Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, which caused much controversy with his then-club Mohun Bagan, and for being the first Indian athlete to boycott the Olympic torch relay in support of the Tibetan independence movement. 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.[7]

In October 2010, he founded Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools in Delhi in partnership with football by Carlos Queiroz and Nike. In August 2011, Bhutia announced his retirement from international football. His farewell match was with the India national team on 10 January 2012 against Bayern Munich at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi.[8]


Early life

Bhaichung Bhutia was born on 15 December 1976.[9][10] In addition to football, Bhutia also represented his school at badminton, basketball and athletics.[11] His parents, both farmers in Sikkim, were originally not keen on Bhutia's interest in sports.[12] However, after encouragement from his uncle, Karma Bhutia, he started his education in St. Xaviers School, Pakyong, East Sikkim, and at the age of nine he won a football scholarship from SAI to attend the Tashi Namgyal Academy in Gangtok.[12][13]

He went on to play for several school and local clubs in his home state of Sikkim, including the Gangtok-based Boys Club, which was managed by Karma.[11] His performance at the 1992 Subroto Cup, where he won the "Best Player" award, brought him to the notice of the football establishment. Former India goalkeeper Bhaskar Ganguly spotted his talent and helped him make the transition to Calcutta football.[13]

Club career

Yuva Bharati Krirangan – home stadium of East Bengal Club and Mohun Bagan

In 1993, at the age of sixteen, he left school to join the professional East Bengal Club in Calcutta.[9] 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.[11][14] Bhutia was the top goalscorer in the league, and was chosen to make his international debut in the Nehru Cup.[12] He was named "1996 Indian Player of the Year".[12][13]

In 1997, he returned to East Bengal Club.[11] Bhutia has the distinction of scoring the first hat-trick in the local derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, when he registered one in East Bengal's 4–1 victory in the 1997 Federation Cup semi-final.[15] He became team captain in the 1998–99 season,[11] during which East Bengal finished second behind Salgaocar in the league.[16] Furthermore 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.[12][13]


"His presence will be a big boost to the confidence of many Asian youngsters."

Piara Power, Let's Kick Racism Out Of Football campaign co-ordinator, after Bhutia signed for Bury.[17]

Bhutia has had limited opportunities in playing overseas. On 30 September 1999, he travelled overseas to play for Bury in Greater Manchester, England, signing a three-year contract, and became the first Indian footballer to play professionally in Europe.[17] This followed unsuccessful trials for Bhutia with Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa.[18][19] He had difficulty obtaining a visa and could not make his debut, until 3 October 1999 against Cardiff City.[20][21] In that match, he came on as a substitute for Ian Lawson and played a part in Bury's second goal, which was scored by Darren Bullock after Bhutia's volley was deflected into his path.[22] On 15 April 2000, he scored his first goal in the English league in the game against Chesterfield.[23] A recurring knee injury limited him to only three games in his final season at Bury, and he was released after the club was placed in administration.[24] His final appearance was a 3–0 defeat to Swindon Town on 27 August 2001.[24]

Return to India

In 2002, he returned to India and played for the Mohun Bagan for a year.[25] However, this was largely unsuccessful as Bhutia was injured early in the season and failed to play again that season, missing Mohun Bagan's only trophy win; the All Airlines Gold Cup.[25] Afterwards, he again returned to the East Bengal Club,[13] helping them to win the ASEAN Club Championship. Bhutia scored a goal in the final, a 3–1 win over Tero Sasana, and was named the "man of the match". He also finished as the top scorer of the Championship with nine goals.[26] Bhutia also scored in the 1–1 draw against Petrokimia Putra and scored five goals in a 6–0 win against Philippine Army in the same tournament.[27][28]

He signed up to play for Perak FA, the Malaysian championship club, from August to October 2003 on loan and returned to East Bengal Club for the regular season.[29] However, his stint at Perak FA ended in a 3–1 defeat against Sabah FA in the Malaysia Cup semi-finals, after which Bhutia described himself as the "villain of the piece".[30] In the 2003–04 season, Bhutia scored 12 goals as East Bengal won the league by four points from second-placed Dempo.[31][32] During the 2004–05 season, Bhutia scored nine goals for East Bengal, which finished in third place behind SC Goa and champions Dempo.[33] He continued to play for East Bengal until the end of the 2005–06 season. In his final season there he was awarded the "Player of the National Football League" by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in a season where he scored 12 goals.[34] Despite this, East Bengal finished runners-up to Mahindra United in the league.[35]

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. Before, he received an offer from then Home United manager Steve Darby, but rejected the offer. Darby later revealed that he failed to sign Bhutia because the offer he made was less than what he was getting in India that time.[36]

"I will try to live up to the expectations of Mohun Bagan supporters and bring success to the team this time."

Baichung Bhutia, on signing for Mohun Bagan a second time.[37]

On 15 June 2006, he joined Mohun Bagan and formed an attacking partnership with Jose Ramirez Barreto.[37] However, the 2006–07 season was a poor one for Bhutia and Mohun Bagan as they finished eighth in the league, just one position above relegation.[38] During the 2007–08 season (the league was now known as the I-League), Bhutia scored 10 goals in 18 matches, and Mohun Bagan finished slightly higher in the league in fourth place.[39] Bhutia won the Indian Player of the Year for the second time in 2008.[40] In winning the award, he became only the second footballer to win it more than once; the other was I. M. Vijayan.[41] In the 2008–09 season, despite a 10-match winning streak, Mohun Bagan finished in second place behind Churchill Brothers because of a final day loss to Mahindra United.[42] Bhutia finished the season with six goals.[43]

On 18 May 2009, Bhutia announced he would quit Mohun Bagan, due to the questioning of his footballing commitment by the club's officials.[44] As a result of the Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa incident, he was suspended for six months by Mohun Bagan.[45] Bhutia was quoted saying "It is just a ploy to keep me at Mohun Bagan for another season. But I will not play for them any more."[46]

East Bengal (IV)

"I want to tell the millions of East Bengal supporters that I am going to finish my career here. It is not going to be a matter of [a] few months but for the rest of my life."

Baichung Bhutia, on signing for East Bengal a fourth time.[47]

Bhutia was reported to have officially signed for East Bengal on 22 June 2009, on a one-year contract, announcing that he would end his playing career at the club.[48] Upon signing for East Bengal, Bhutia declared it to be his homecoming, "This is really my homecoming. This is the club from where it all started and it is here where it is going to end."[47] The situation was further complicated, however, as Mohun Bagan's general secretary Anjan Mitra said "Our contract with Bhaichung is perfectly legal and he has one more year left with us."[49] Bhutia’s lawyer Usha Nath Banerjee countered this, "I doubt the legality of Bagan’s contract. In any case, according to FIFA and AIFF rules, a player who is above 28 years of age is free to make a choice of club in the third year of his contract".[49] Bhutia and Mohun Bagan were set to meet on 17 August in the AIFF headquarters to settle their differences with AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco.[49] On 29 August, it was announced that the issue had not been resolved yet and the outbound Colaco was set to meet Bhutia on 30 August.[50] No compromise was reached, however, and on 5 September former additional solicitor general Amrendra Sharan was appointed to look into the dispute.[51] On 10 September, Bhutia filed defamation charges, claiming damages of INR10 million, against Mohun Bagan for "trying to tarnish his reputation".[52] Bhutia was granted interim relief on 26 September, but the case between Mohun Bagan and Bhutia is set to continue until a final verdict is reached.[53] On 4 November, it was revealed that Mohun Bagan had approached football's governing body FIFA to intervene in the dispute with Bhutia.[54]

The start of the 2010–11 season would be without Bhutia until the end of January as the Indian national team prepared and participated in the Asian Cup from November to January. Though laid low by injuries in recent months, Bhutia believes he would return next season after taking a three-month break and if he ever decides to quit, he would do it from East Bengal.[55]

United Sikkim

In 2011, Bhutia joined United Sikkim.

International career

India national team during Asian Cup 2007 qualifiers. Bhutia standing rightmost.

Bhutia scored in his international debut for India against Uzbekistan in the 1995 Nehru Cup becoming India's youngest ever goalscorer, at 19.[56] In the 1997 SAFF Championship, India beat the Maldives 5–1 in the final, Bhutia was responsible for one goal.[57] Two years later, the tournament was held in Goa and India successfully defended their title by beating Bangladesh 2–0 in the final. Bhutia scored the second goal for India after Bruno Coutinho opened the scoring and Bhutia was named as the tournament's most valuable player.[58]

He also netted two goals in the final of the 2002 LG Cup held in Vietnam, in which India beat the host nation 3–2, Bhutia's goals came either side of half-time.[59] The football tournament of the 2003 Afro-Asian Games saw India finish as runners-up behind Uzbekistan. Bhutia scored two goals in the tournament, both of which came in the 5–3 semi-final win over Zimbabwe.[60] In the 2007 Nehru Cup, Bhutia scored a penalty in a 6–0 victory over Cambodia in the opening match of the tournament.[61] He also scored in a 1–0 win over Bangladesh[62] and a 3–0 win over Kyrgyzstan.[63] Bhutia played a significant part in the final as he was involved in the build-up to N. P. Pradeep's winning goal against Syria during which India won 1–0 to become champions.[64]

The next successful SAFF Championship was in 2005 where Bhutia was captain, in the group stages he scored a goal in a 3–0 victory over Bhutan but did not score in the other two matches.[65] India progressed to the semi-finals during which Bhutia played in the 1–0 win over the Maldives.[65] The final was a repeat of the 1999 final, as Bangladesh were the opposition, and once again India triumphed 2–0 during which Bhutia scored the second goal in the 81st minute from close range after Mehrajuddin Wadoo's 33rd minute opener.[66] He received the award for the Most Valuable Player and also the Fair Play trophy.[66] The 2008 SAFF Championship started with a 4–0 win over neighbouring Nepal, Bhutia scored the second goal in the 34th minute.[67] It turned out to be Bhutia's only goal of the tournament, however, he did have several chances to score in the semi-final against Bhutan which saw India win 2–1 to reach the final.[68] In the final, India failed to defend their title after losing 1–0 to the Maldives.[69]

He scored twice in a 2–1 victory in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup against Turkmenistan to reach the semi-finals.[70] The Sikkimese Sniper scored a goal in the final against Tajikistan, during which India won 4–1 thanks to a Sunil Chhetri hat-trick;[71] the victory also allowed them to automatically qualify for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.[72] He was also selected as the most valuable player of the tournament, finishing with three goals.[41][72]

The 2009 Nehru Cup was significant for Bhutia, as he earned his 100th cap for India in a 2–1 win over Kyrgyzstan, becoming the first Indian player to reach this milestone.[6] He also scored the first goal in this match to help the team recover from their opening day defeat to Lebanon.[73] In the match against Sri Lanka, Bhutia again scored an opening goal which helped India to win 3–1 and solidified their chances of reaching the final. He was adjudged as the "man of the match" for his performance.[74] Bhutia missed the final match of the round-robin, as India were already guaranteed a spot in the deciding match. He was also adjudged as "Player of the Tournament" for his stellar performances in all of the matches, including the decider where they beat Syria in a penalty shootout.[75][76]

At the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, Bhutia was injured for their first two games against Australia and Bahrain, but he came on as a secound half substitute against South Korea, but failed to save India, losing 4–1 as they were eliminated. Shortly after the Asian Cup, he announced his retirement for India with a record of 43 goals in 107 appearances.[77][78]



India national team

International goals

Scores and results list India's goal tally first.[81]

Personal life

Bhutia with his wife Madhuri Tipnis at the Mohun Bagan Ground

As his surname suggests, Bhutia comes from a buddhist, Bhutia background, although he is, by conviction, not religious.[82] The name "Baichung" literally means "little brother".[83] He married his longtime girlfriend Madhuri Tipnis, a hotel professional, on 30 December 2004 in his native village of Tinkitam in South Sikkim. His wife Madhuri gave birth to twins on 8 April 2010. The first one is a girl and the other is a boy. They were born in a private nursing home in Kolkata.[84] His fictional hero is Howard Roark, a character from Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead, and he has a tattoo of a footballer on his arm.[85] The Sikkimese government has built a stadium, the Baichung Stadium in Namchi, the district headquarters, in honour of Bhutia.[3][86] He is one of the most popular figures in the state and is considered as a role model to many Sikkimese as well to people from other states of India.[87] On 23 January 2008, Bhutia was nominated for the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, for his contribution to Indian football.[88][89] Three days later on 26 January, India's Republic Day, he was chosen for the Padma Shri along with national swimming champion Bula Choudhury.[90]

He played in the Goal 4 Africa match held in the Allianz Arena, Munich, on 12 July 2008, for the Edu team, led by Clarence Seedorf, and scored twice.[91] In 2009, Bhutia started a foundation called the "Indian Sports Foundation" to help footballers overcome serious injuries.[92] He is also the president of the Football Players’ Association of India (FPAI),[92] an organisation that promises "fair treatment" of Indian footballers by dealing with financial aspects such as pension plans.[93] He formed FPAI after seeing the Professional Footballers' Association in England.[94]

Bhutia is a supporter of the Tibetan independence movement

He signed an endorsement deal with Adidas India Marketing Pvt. Ltd in November 2003.[95] Currently he is endorsing Nike India.[96] After completing the deal to become the brand's ambassador for India, Bhutia said "I am confident that Nike will help elevate the sport in the country."[97]

In 2008, Bhutia was solicited to run with the Olympic torch in India, but he refused to carry the torch to show support for the Tibetan independence movement. "I sympathise with the Tibetan cause. I'm against violence but I thought I should stand by the Tibetan people in their fight," Bhutia said.[98] He was the first Indian sportsman to refuse to carry the Olympic torch.[98] His actions have won him little praise from his colleagues in India however, who criticised him for mixing sports with politics.[99]

In 2011, Bhutia was caught in the Sikkim earthquake. Although he was not injured, his United Sikkim offices were completely destroyed. In the aftermath, he joined with several Bollywood actors like Neha Dhupia and Rahul Bose to raise money for earthquake victims.[100]

Baichung Bhutia Football Schools

On 28 October 2010, he started Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools in Delhi in partnership with football by Carlos Quieroz and Nike.[101][102]

Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa

In 2009, partnering with choreographer Sonia Jaffer,[103] he won the third season of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, the Indian version of the international series Dancing with the Stars. Bhutia earned Rs.4 million for winning the competition, beating Karan Singh Grover and Gauhar Khan in the final.[104] Bhutia donated half of the prize money to charity and the other half was shared with his choreographer; he also said some money would go towards areas hit by Cyclone Aila.[105] It was reported that an "SMS Voting Frenzy" allowed him to win after many organisations in Sikkim conducted mass voting events (this involved participants buying mobile cash cards so they could vote via SMS) to increase Bhutia's chance of winning the trophy.[106][107] This performance put Bhutia's relationship with his club Mohun Bagan in jeopardy, as he missed a friendly, as well as practice sessions, due to his participation in the reality show.[108]


See also


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