24 September, 2020

Forward Looker

A wunderkind from Sikkim is Indian football's big new hope

Forward Looker

He's young and happening; rich and famous; modest and well-spoken. And yes, he is related-distantly-to Danny Dengzongpa. But most important of all, he can actually score goals.

Meet Bhaichung (translation: Little Brother) Bhutia, not yet 19, but already Indian football's hottest property. In the span of barely two years, the boy from Sikkim's Tinkitam village (population: approximately 300) has become the country's richest footballer, pulling in a cool Rs 5.5 lakh a year for East Bengal club.

Calcutta, where football is the unofficial religion, is currently in the grip of a Bhaichung fever.' Fans flock to East Bengal's matches solely to see him in action. Then, at the end of the match, they flock to the dressing rooms, waiting to catch a fleeting glimpse of the first homegrown soccer hero in a long time. And his stock has gone up further following his goal in the pre-Olympic qualifying match against Pakistan at Peshawar. "An extraordinary match-winner," according to national coach Rustom Akramov.

Salt Lake Stadium is a vast, cavernous bowl of a stadium. East Bengal's...



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