Bhaichung Bhutia celebrates his 43rd birthday on December 15, 2019. Born in 1975 in a small village of Tinkitam in Sikkim, Bhutia went on to glory as a footballer and is often celebrated as one of India's footballing greats. IM Vijayan once described him as "God's Gift to Indian football." Bhutia holds numerous records to his name, including, the feat of becoming the first Indian to play and score in a professional football league in England. His decision to join Bury FC in 1999 made him the second Indian footballer after Mohammed Salim to play in Europe. Bhutia penned a 3-year contract at Bury FC -- a Manchester-based League One football team in England. On Bhaichung Bhutia’s 43rd birthday, let’s take a look at some of his lesser-known facts and achievements.
Bhutia left school at the age of 16 to join East Bengal and kickstart his professional football career. It is often rumoured that Bhaichung Bhutia ignored his ICSE exams to play for East Bengal. But despite signing for East Bengal, Bhutia's first professional appearance was for JCT Mills in 1996. He led the JCT Mills to the National Football League (NFL now called the I-League) in 1996-97 finishing as the league's top goal-scorer. And soon was called back by East Bengal. Bhutia scored the first-ever hat-trick in a Kolkata Derby match between East Bangla and Mohan Bagan.
- Bhaichung Bhutia was born on December 15, 1976, in the village of Tinkitam in Sikkim
- Bhutia joined Bury FC in 1999 making him the first Indian professional footballer to play for an England-based football club
- He was also the only the second Indian footballer after Mohammed Salim to play professionally in Europe
- Bhaichung Bhutia held the record of being the youngest international goal scorer for India at 18 years and 90 days until it was surpassed by Jerry Ziesanga
- Bhaichung Bhutia is India's fourth-highest international goal scorer with 40 goals to his name
- Bhutia holds the record of scoring most individual goals (5) in a single match in Indian domestic football circuit
- He participated and won the Jhalak Dikhla Jaa reality dance television show in 2009 while at Mohun Bagan
Bhutia remains one of the few players to turns up for the Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan and play with distinction in both the clubs. He also finished his footballing career in East Bengal after scoring a record number of club goals. He retired with two National Football League, two Federation titles, over 15 Calcutta Football League trophies and the ASEAN Club Championship with East Bengal in 2003. In Indian colours, Bhutia won the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008, the SAFF Championship and the Nehru Cup in 2007 and 2009.