By Our Correspondent
Bhaichung Bhutia, India’s most recognized face in world football, has quit international football. Bhutia called it quits in light of injuries that have plagued him over the past 10 months. The 'Sikkimese Sniper', as he is called, couldn't handle the pain of parting from the national team.
"The past eight months have been really tough for me. I had planned to call it quits after the Asian Cup earlier this year, but not in this fashion. I wanted to play one last game for the country, but my injury has been such that I couldn't play. It is tough for me to part from the Indian team," said Bhutia at a crowded press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.
An icon in Indian football, the 34-year-old started his international career as a substitute against Thailand in the Nehru Cup in 1995. In his last match for India, he came on as a substitute in the 4-1 loss versus South Korea in the Asian Cup in Qatar.
"I would have loved to play a bigger role in the Asian Cup, but a calf injury about a month prior to the tournament denied me a proper farewell from international football,” said Bhutia.
Bhutia plans to continue playing for his club, United Sikkim. "I will still continue playing for my club, no matter what. Whenever I am fit, I'll be there on the field for them. It is like my dream child and I will be associated with it for years to come," said Bhutia, who rose to fame from a tiny Sikkimese hamlet, Tinkitam.
Someone who always spoke his mind against poor management, Bhutia has ruled out any move to join the All India Football Federation. Bhutia has played 107 international matches and scored 42 goals. He even had a stint with English first division team, Bury FC in 1999-2002.
"I will not join AIFF right away because I have my club to look after. And also, I have the BBFS (Bhaichung Bhutia Football School) to work with. I have these two projects, but I am available to the AIFF in whatever capacity they need me. If the federation needs my help, I will be just one call away for them," said the former Indian captain.
The Sikkimese star, who started playing as a professional 18 years ago, has just one regret: not being able to play at the FIFA World Cup.
“The only regret from my playing days is not being able to lead the team to the World Cup. We had come close in 2002, but were unable to make it through. It was my dream and I hope in my lifetime it will be achieved. I want to see the national team at the World Cup,” said Bhutia.
By Our Correspondent