The Indian skipper added another feather in his cap last week when he got felicitated by the Portugal Football Players Association (PFPA) with a lifetime membership.
With this award, the “Sikkimese Sniper” joined an elite league of players like Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Nuno Gomes who have been conferred with the same honor in the past.
This felicitation should not come as a surprise to the people who have followed the career of this East Bengal striker as he has been the sole face of Indian football to the rest of the world for over a decade now.
Bhaichung Bhutia: Poster boy of Indian football
The respect which he commands the world over can be made out from the fact that in spite of playing in the lowly ranked I- league for a majority of his life, (domestic league) he has featured in a number of All-Star charity matches.
Recently, he was a part of a star-studded Zidane XI which competed against a Benfica All Stars team in Lisbon in a charity match to raise funds for victims of the Haiti earthquake. He not only got to share the pitch with footballing greats like Zinedine Zidane, Kaka, Robert Pires, Seedorf, Robin Van Persie, but also scored the crucial equalizer for his team just minutes before the final whistle.
Although he has been a recipient of quite a few similar accolades in the past, this moment will occupy a special part in his club career as this honour came straight from an association of a European powerhouse.
Rarely have we come across an individual who has made this country of a billion plus people take notice of a sport other than cricket. Bhaichung has been doing that for nearly fifteen years now and deserves all the admiration that is coming his way..
Bhutia’s career achievements:
- Was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1999.
- Felicitated with Padma Shri in 2008.
- Second Indian to play football professionally in Europe and first to play in England.
- Led the national team to title triumph at the LG Cup in Vietnam in 2002.
- Two back to back victories in the Nehru Cup (2007 and 2009).
- Won the AFC challenge cup in 2008 and which helped India qualify for Asian Cup after a long wait of 27 years.
- First and only player to earn 100 caps for Indian national team.
- Highest scorer for Indian Nationl team.
- Captained East Bengal football club to victory in the LG Asean Club Cup football championship in 2003.
- In 1999 he was bestowed with the Sikkim State award.
- Has a stadium named after him in “Namchi” in southern Sikkim.