Former Indian football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia is likely to sport the red and god of East Bengal once again, this time to call it a day in his glorifying career. The Indian footballer, who retired from International football eight years ago, has not officially retired from club football. Time and again Bhaichung had said that he would retire from club football as an East Bengal player and he came close to achieve his dream in 2015. But a knee injury had restricted him from donning his favourite club’s jersey.
In the centenary year of East Bengal, as the club plans to hold a number of events in leading up to a grand celebration at the club tent on August 1, Bhaichung has wished to play for the club for one last time. “In the centenary year of East Bengal, he has expressed his desire to play for five minutes and announce his retirement from club football,” said EB executive committee member Debabrata Sarkar at a press conference.
Sarkar was, however, quick to add that the final call on whether or not Bhaichung could be included in starting eleven would be taken by club coach Alejandro Menendez. “The coach will decide when and where Bhaichung can play,” said Sarkar at the conference where Bhaichung himself was present.
Speaking to the reporters, the former Indian international thanked East Bengal for spotting and bringing him to Kolkata at a young age. “I came here from Sikkim as a 17-year-old and I cried when I left behind my family. But I got a bigger family here and never became homesick. Other than Mohun Bagan, no other club has made so much contribution to Indian football,” said the footballer who earned the nickname of the “Sikkimese Sniper” while playing for East Bengal.
The club has decided to honour the veteran footballer with “identifying and nurturing the icon” award during the celebrations of the centenary year. Also, former Indian cricket team’s captain Kapil Dev will also be honoured in one of the events. Dev, who signed for East Bengal in 1992 had appeared for them in an exhibition match against Mohun Bagan as a substitute striker, will be conferred with club’s highest honour, Bharat Gaurav.
The club will also honour the former Indian football captains Manoranjan Bhattacharya and Bhaskar Ganguly, with Lifetime Achievement awards. Also, besides conferring legendary P.K. Banerjee with the ‘Coach of Coaches’ award, East Bengal will give away the ‘Best Footballer of the Year’ award to Laldanmawia Ralte.
The club will also honour legendary P K Banerjee with the ‘Coach of coaches’ award, while Laldanmawia Ralte will get ‘Best Footballer of the Year’ award on August 1.