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Baichung Bhutia bids goodbye to international football
« on: August 24, 2011, 10:31:56 AM »

Baichung Bhutia bids goodbye to international football
PTI | Aug 24, 2011, 01.47PM IST

NEW DELHI: Former captain and the face of Indian football for major part of the last two decades, star striker Baichung Bhutia announced his international retirement, drawing curtains on an illustrious 16-year career.

The 34-year-old, known as the 'Sikkimese Sniper' for his shooting skills, announced his decision during a press meet at the All India Football Federation headquarters on Wednesday.

"I had fantastic 16 years of international football. I enjoyed every moment to have represented the country, to have contributed to the game," Baichung said.

Speculation had been rife on the imminent retirement of the talismanic striker, who pulled out of India Under-23 side's tour of England where they will play against Pakistan and England Under-23 next month.

He was struggling with injuries in the past one year and could play for just 15 minutes in the Asian Cup in Qatar in January, the most prestigious event India has ever taken part in the last 27 years.

"Winning the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008, to qualify for the Asian Cup were the best moments of my career and I thought of retiring after playing in that tournament," he said.

"But I could play only 15 minutes in the Asian Cup and I thought it was not the right way to retire. I wanted to continue playing but the last 7-8 months have been frustrating due to lot of injuries. So I have decided to quit," he added.

He was dropped from the Indian squad selected for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers and the preparatory matches.

Baichung, however, will continue to play for his club United Sikkim FC which he founded.

"Lots of things in life do not happen the way we wish so I am quitting from international football but will continue playing for my club," he said.

"My commitment and contribution to Indian football will not diminish and I am ready to help the AIFF in whatever way they want me," he said.

The club failed to qualify for I-League this season but he will be keen to take the side to the Federation Cup main round, the qualifiers of which will begin on September 8.

Baichung captained India for over 10 years and scored 43 international goals, more than any other footballer of the country. He is also the only Indian and one among few international players to have played more then 100 matches for his country.

Under him, India won the South Asian Football Federation Championships thrice, two Nehru Cup titles (in 2007 and 2009) and the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup which gave India the right to play in the Asian Cup this year for the first time after 1984.

The most recognisable face of Indian football, Baichung has been decorated with the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri.

Born on December 15, 1976 at Namchi, the five feet eight inch Baichung made his international debut against Thailand in 1995 and went onto play more than 100 international games. He reached the milestone during the 2009 Nehru Cup here.

He was on the verge of international retirement in 2006 after India had a string of poor shows under coach Syed Nayeemuddin with whom he had serious differences but only to change minds on the plea of then AIFF president Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi and new coach Bob Houghton.

Baichung first came to the forefront at the 1992 Subroto Cup in New Delhi where he played for SAI Centre Gangtok. Next year, he was signed on by Kolkata giants East Bengal after his showings in the Subroto Cup and for the National Under-16 team in the Asian Under-16 Cup Qualifiers.

In 1995, Baichung, along with a host of other Indian top stars, signed up for JCT Mills of Phagwara and had two very successful seasons with them, among other things winning the first-ever National Football League title, being also the league's top scorer.

In 1997, Baichung returned to East Bengal. By this time he had become one of India's top players and in the 1998-99 season he was club captain, one of the youngest ever at 21.

After unsuccessful trials with English Premiership side Aston Villa and Championship clubs Fulham FC and West Bromwich Albion, Baichung finally signed for Division Two club Bury FC in 1999 to become the first Indian to play in Europe.

He was with Bury FC for three years till 2002.



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Re: Baichung Bhutia bids goodbye to international football
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2011, 04:08:15 PM »

Baichung Bhutia was a traitor: Nayeemuddin
PTI | Aug 24, 2011, 05.18PM IST

Syed Nayeemuddin led a bunch of former football stars in lashing out against Bhaichung Bhutia, accusing him of conspiracy during the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in 2006. (TOI Photo)
KOLKATA: Dronacharya awardee coach Syed Nayeemuddin on Wednesday led a bunch of former football stars in lashing out against the just-retired Bhaichung Bhutia, accusing him of conspiracy during the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in 2006.

On a day when Bhutia announced his retirement in New Delhi, Nayeemuddin, who was sacked unceremoniously after India's defeats against Japan and Yemen, blamed Bhutia for the debacle and demanded a CBI inquiry into the matches held five years ago.

Former India defender Subrata Bhattachara and Dhyan Chand awardee Shabbir Ali, too, were critical of the 'Sikkimese Sniper', saying the media had made him the face of football in India.

Accusing Bhutia of rigging the match against lower-ranked Yemen, Nayeemuddin said: "He conspired with the players and did not allow the goalkeeping coach (Atanu Bhattacharya) to be present in a team meeting. He got it over with six to seven players of the team."

Terming him a "traitor", Nayeemuddin said: "He has ditched the country and now he is being projected as a football icon in India. Let there be CBI inquiry and I should be killed if they found me guilty."

"No player is bigger than country and he is no exception. It was unbelievable."

Nayeemuddin ranked IM Vijayan ahead of Bhutia. "On any given day, Vijayan was better. He was disciplined and more talented. Players like him could have played minimum five years more with 100 per cent better performance than Bhutia. He was a team man and technically more sound," Nayeemuddin said about the Kerala stalwart.

Bhutia, incidentally, was on the verge of retirement in 2006 after India had a string of poor shows under coach Syed Nayeemuddin with whom he had serious differences, but he changed his mind after a request by then AIFF president Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi.

Two-time Santosh Trophy winning coach Shabbir Ali said India's ranking would not have slipped so much if Bhutia was an all-time great.

"I am not saying he was not a good player. During his time, he was the star. He was like us only. Calling him the face of India football is nothing but a media creation."

"Had it been so, India's performance would have been different and we would not be languishing at the bottom of the rankings.

"There were many good players during his time who did not get chance, but he excelled. We played international matches against all top teams and with good results. But he played against all the third division teams in Dubai, Portugal and came losing.

"And everybody knows what happened during the Asian Cup where he played with injury and deprived a place in the side with the federation (AIFF) becoming the laughing stock," Ali alleged.

Former Mohun Bagan defender Subrata Bhattacharya said Bhutia should have quit earlier.

"There was no performance of him in last four five years. He should have retired much earlier. It was a bad timing. He called it quits after not being able to play."

"Media have made him an icon. He is like David Beckham who is a good PRO, knows how to present himself. I don't think he was a good footballer at all. He was never an etnertainer.

"Yes he scored many goals but most of them against nations like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives," Bhattacharya said.

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