Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bhaichung Bhutia : My Fundays

A star footballer, Bhaichung Bhutia captains team India and has also played for the second division English club, Bury FC

I was born in a place called Tinkitam in Sikkim — a three hour drive from the state capital Gangtok. Life in the hills is an endless struggle but I was lucky because I was the youngest of three children and didn’t have to do the kind of hard work most others did. There was a sporting environment at home because both my brothers were footballers. By the time I was four, I had learnt to dribble my way past defenders who were, in most cases, bigger and older than me.
I was sent to a boarding school, St Xavier’s in Pakyong, East Sikkim, very early on. Initially, I used to sweat it out during lunch breaks, but I couldn’t make it to the house team. For a long time I found myself on the reserve benches. I knew that given a chance I would play well but I was the youngest of the lot, so few took me seriously. Also, for some reason one of my sports teachers didn’t like me and made sure that I did not make it to the team.
One day, this teacher went on leave. It was the day my house was to play a big match. I knew that this was the only chance to prove myself, so I begged my principal to give me a chance. After much coaxing, he told me that he would let me play in the second half. I couldn’t believe my ears. I was determined not to let go of this opportunity, so I played to the best of my ability and scored a goal. My house lost that match but I had won my first battle.
Sometime later, I made it to the Tashi Namgyal Academy (a school affiliated to the sports authority of India) where I met my first coach, Manash Chakravarty and my mentor Karma P. Bhutia. By the time I was in class VII, I was a regular in the team. Though I was popular, I used to be naughty at times. For instance when I was in class III I was thrown out of the school choir because my teacher discovered I was only moving my lips. Another time, I was forced against my will to be a puppet on stage. I was made to wear a skirt and, to my extreme embarrassment, my skirt dropped while I was going through the motions on stage. That was the last time anyone tried to cast me in a play.
As told