Kolkata, April 6: Bhaichung Bhutia needs no introduction. An Indian football icon, the ace striker has been the face of the sport in the country for almost two decades.
Bhutia, 44, began his career at East Bengal in 1993 as a 16-year old after being thrown into the public eye following a first-rate performance in the 1992 Subroto Cup. He then went on to win every single trophy with the club including one National Football League title and the famous ASEAN Cup in 2003.
Bhutia won the Golden Boot award in the ASEAN Cup, netting a total of nine goals including one in the final against Thailand's BEC Tero Sasana. Bhutia also scored all six goals in a single match against Philippine Army FC thereby becoming the only Indian to score six in a row on foreign soil as East Bengal won 6-0 in the group stage of the competition.
One of Bhutia's most iconic moments in an East Bengal shirt was during the Federation Cup semifinal tie in 1997 against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan where he scored a hattrick as the red and golds defeated the green and maroons 4-1.
Bhutia had five different stints in the Red and Gold colours over nearly two decades, from 1993 to 2011.
In creating our latest series 'SCEB Legends Collection', it was therefore quite a no-brainer that we kickstart with the 'Sikkimese Sniper' Bhutia who captained both India and East Bengal with aplomb.
"It is a great concept. I liked it. This is also interactive and a nice way to remember the club greats," Bhutia told SC East Bengal's official website.
Talking about SC East Bengal's maiden Indian Super League campaign, Bhutia said: "The brand of football on offer was good. It was always about participation this time. They did well to put up a team in such a short time and take part."
The 'SCEB Legends Collection' will see the club greats rated on their Pace, Shooting, Passing, Dribbling, Defending, and Physicality and it was not a surprise, to say the least that Bhutia passed every parameter with flying colours.
Bhutia was blessed with blistering pace and would more often than not force defenders into making mistakes with his high pressing.
Bhutia was known for his powerful shots and his pinpoint accuracy in front of goal, his sumptuous back volleys were the icing on the cake.
Bhutia passed the ball with some efficiency and was known for quick one-twos in the final third.
At full tilt, Bhutia would run amok in the opposition half with his mazy dribbles and clever off-the-ball runs.
Not quite a defender, Bhutia was a team man and would track back when required underlining his true quality as a leader.
Despite not being stockily built, Bhutia had the physical presence to ward off defenders.