Uzair Rizvi, BeyondHeadlines
Indian Star Striker Baichung Bhutia retires from International Football, drawing curtains on an illustrious 16-year-old career.
The 34-year old made his announcement of Wednesday. Injuries have haunted the striker in recent times and he decided to call it quits from the International level but will continue to play for his founding club Sikkim United.
The former Indian Captain was struggling with a calf injury in the past year. He only played a limited role at this year’s Asia Cup and was forced to pull out of an upcoming tour of England, where they were to face archrivals Pakistan.
Bhutia known as ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ made his International debut at the age of 19 in 1995.He scored his first International goal on his debut match against Uzbekistan and became the youngest goal scorer for Indian National Team.
He captained India for over 10 years and went on to score 43 goals, more than any other footballer in the country. He is also among the few players to have represented his country in more than 100 games.
Bhutia was also the first Indian to play professional football in Europe when English Club Bury FC signed him on a three-year contract in 1999.
As a captain, he led India South Asian Football Federation Championship three times. Under him, India won the Nehru Cup twice and the 2008 AFC championship, which ensured India’s participation in Asia Cup for the first time since 1984.
He is the recipient of the Padma Shree and the Arjuna Award, the country’s second highest sporting award.
Bhutia’s engaging personality helped bring football to the forefront in cricket-crazy nation.
“My commitment and contribution to the Indian Football will not diminish and I’m ready to help the AIFF (All India Football Federation) in whatever way they want me”, he said.