Full Name: Baichung Bhutia
Born: December 15, 1976, Tinkitam, Sikkim
Major Teams: East Bengal Club, JCT Mills, Mohun Bagan AC, Bury FC, India
Playing Position: Striker
First Indian to play professional football in England
Led the national football team to title triumph at the LG Cup in Vietnam in 2002
Led East Bengal club to LG Asean Club Cup football championship victory in Jakarta in 2003
Baichung Bhutia is probably the most famous and popular Football player India has ever produced. Also known as the “First Poster Boy of Indian Football”, Bhutia has contributed a lot to make the game popular among the young crowds of the nation even in the places where the game of Football has not been much popular.
Primarily hailing from the North-Eastern state of Sikkim, Baichung was born on the 15th of December 1976 at Tinkitam, Sikkim. He got his basic education at St. Xaviers School, Pakyong, East Sikkim. Since the very beginning he showed his serious interested towards the game of Football, and encouragement from his uncle Karma Bhutia helped him move forward towards his destiny. Due to his extra-ordinary capabilities in the game of Football, Bhutia got a scholarship from Tashi Namgyal Academy, a well known school in Gangtok at the age of 9.
Bhutia caught the attention of everybody for the first time at the Subroto Cup 1992 held at Delhi, wherein he was bestowed upon the Best Player award. Bhaskar Ganguly, the former goalkeeper of the Indian Football team was specially impressed by Baichung’s talent and supported him to move ahead to professional Football. At the age of 16 years, Bhutia joined East Bengal, a reputed Football club from Calcutta (now Kolkata), and further went ahead to join a yet another well known Football club, JCT Mills, Phagwara in the year 1995. The same year, JCT was able to win the National Football League after Bhutia joined them, and scored the maximum number of goals in the League for JCT. Baichung was bestowed upon the “Indian Player of the Year 1996” award.
Further, he came back to East Bengal in the year 1997 and led the team in the year 1998-99. In the Semi Final match of the Federation Cup Football 1997 played between between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, Baichung scored a hatrick and led East Bengal win the match by 4-1. Bhutia has been the only Football player ever to score a hatrick in a Football match between the most famous arch rivals of the Indian Football – East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. The same year, he earned the recognition of being the Highest Scorer ever in any match of the National Football League. In a match against Mahindra United played on the 9th of December 1997, he scored 5 goals alone for his team JCT Mills.
In the year 1999, Bhutia began playing for an English Football club named Bury F.C., and played over there till the year 2002. Upon his return to India in the year 2002, he played for Mohun Bagan AC for 1 year and then again moved back to his initial club, East Bengal and played for them until he reverted back to Mohun Bagan in the year 2006. In the meantime, he also played for Perak, a Malaysian Football club. Currently he is in a contract with Mohun Bagan, and will playe with them till the year 2010.
Bhutia has been honored with Indian Player of the Year award twice in the years 1995 and 2008. In the year 1999 he was bestowed upon the Sikkim State Award, and Arjuna Award. In the year 2008, he has been conferred upon the Padmashree Award.