Indian National Team: Indian Football Icon Bhaichung Bhutia Set To Announce International Retirement

After recurrent injury troubles, Bhaichung Bhutia is all set to announce his retirement from international football.
Former India captain and the arguably one of the greatest footballers India has ever produced, Bhaichung Bhutia is set to announce his international retirement on Wednesday and thus bring to an end an illustrious career that had single-handedly guided Indian Football for the past two decades.

The 34-year-old , known as the 'Sikkimese Sniper' for his exceptional shooting skills, is expected to announce his retirement at a press conference in the AIFF Headquarters. 

The signs were imminent as Bhaichung had pulled out of India Under-23 side's tour of England where they are scheduled to play against Pakistan and England Under-23 'C' next month. 

Injuries proved to be his biggest hindrance of late and that is exactly why he only played around 15 minutes in the AFC Asia Cup in Qatar,  the most prestigious tournament India took part during Bhaichung's international career.

He was later left out from the Indian squad that was selected for the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers.

Bhaichung, however, will continue to play for his club United Sikkim FC where he doubles up as a player and administrator. The club failed to qualify for the I-League this season but would be keen to reach the main rounds of the Federation Cup.

Bhaichung had been the captain of India for more than 10 years and has scored 43 international goals, more than any other player from the country, having also played more than 100 matches.

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 for the first time in 27 years.
Born on December 15, 1976 at Namchi, Bhaichung made his international debut against Uzbekistan in 1995 and since then there has been no looking back for this footballing maestro.

He was on the verge of international retirement in 2006 after India had a string of poor shows under coach Syed Nayeemuddin but changed his mind on the request of then AIFF president Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi and coach Bob Houghton. 

Bhaichung first marked his arrival in the Indian football circuit when he impressed with performances at the 1992 Subroto Cup in New Delhi where he played for SAI Centre Gangtok. The following year, he was signed by Kolkata giants East Bengal after a few more exceptional showings for the National Under-16 team in the Asian Under-16 Cup Qualifiers. 

In 1995, Bhaichung signed up for JCT Mills of Phagwara and had two very exceptional seasons with them, that also saw them win the first-ever National Football League title, with him being the league's top scorer.

By 1998 he was one of the top players in Indian football and the stage was all set for him to flourish.

After unsuccessful trials with English Premiership side Aston Villa and Championship clubs Fulham FC and West Bromwich Albion, Bhaichung went on to sign for Division Two club Bury FC in 1999 to become the second ever Indian after Mohammed Salim to play in Europe.

He returned to India in 2002 and played a significant role for East Bengal including his splendid display in the red and gold brigade's historic ASEAN cup triumph in 2003.

Bhaichung also had success with Mohun Bagan from 2006 to 2009, a spell during which he won the Federation Cup for the first time in his career. He later returned to East Bengal but couldn't make too many appearances due to injuries and national team commitments.

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