By Soumitra Bose
Playing at a friendly pace, Bayern Munich ‘presented’ four lovely goals during Bhutia’s farewell match at Delhi’s Nehru Stadium on a floodlit Tuesday evening. A clash between the four-time UEFA Champions League winners and a nation ranked 162 in the world was always going to be one between David and Goliath. It went according to the script.
Bayern netted all their four goals in the first half. Golden Boot winner in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Thomas Mueller scored in the 28th and 36th minutes after Mario Gomez drew first blood in the 14th.
India’s agony did not end there as Bastian Schweinsteiger scored with a rasping long ranger in the 43rd minute.
The result of the match was a foregone conclusion. It was supposed to be Bhutia’s night out and the Germans didn’t spoil it. Bayern paid their tribute to Bhutia just before the kick-off. Skipper and Germany’s World Cup captain Philipp Lahm presented the pin-up boy of Indian soccer, a red-coloured Bayern jersey that had “Baichung” and his favourite “No. 15” printed on it.
The organisers of the match ensured the public had its share of fun as well. Football can be mixed with entertainment too and you don’t necessarily need scantily-clad cheerleaders. The Birmingham-based Astaria String Quartet set the pace with some classic instrumental music and Bayern players continued in the same vein on the pitch.
Bhutia led the Indian team out with his usual panache but the Germans took early control of the game. Their fine passing and territorial domination left Bhutia a passenger upfront. The 50,000-odd fans, who turned up on a cold evening, did not mind the Germans toying with the Indian defence. Bayern’s goals were classy and Mueller’s strikes had touches of precision finish, artistry and the appropriate attitude a quality striker owns.
The 35-year-old Bhutia was the cynosure of all eyes. Everyone wanted a piece of him and the veteran star had little time to rest during the break. He was presented the keys of an Audi SUV, a gift that will surely keep his second innings of his life on the wheels.
India fielded their first XI after the breather. Climax Lawrence, Jeje and Jewel Raja Sheikh added spark in the attacking zone. Bhutia paired with Jeje upfront. Old mixed with the new but a fresh pair of legs always leaves the weary behind. Bhutia was substituted in the 86th minute. He had probably played his last match in India colours.
The stadium gave Bhutia a standing ovation, a gesture that the man of the evening richly deserved for serving Indian football for 16 long years, scoring 42 goals in 107 internationals.