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Recalling Fond Memories With Bhaichung On His 36th Birthday

Monday, 16 December 2013|Saurabh Rai
Saurabh Rai, recalls the fond memories he, as a kid, had with Bhaichung on his 35th Birthday.
Bhaichung Bhutia, was my senior at school, Tashi Namgyal Academy, Gangtok and he was already a Hero as he had achieved so much success at a very young age; getting selected for the School Federation camp, being the best player in the 1992 Subroto Cup, getting a call up for the India Under-16 team and also a berth in the number one team in Sikkim, called the Boys Club. 

This is my most early memories of Agya Bhaichung  (I call him Agya which stands for elder brother in Bhutia’s Language)  I can remember, when in school, me and my friends were running around him, only to have a few words with.

One day, I guess it was during lunch break we had gone up to the ground and Agya came out of the Hostel, which is perched just above the ground and our group got excited and in the excitement, asked him in Nepali, (Note- TNA is and English medium school but back in the days Nepali used to be the first language, I guess barring the teachers nobody spoke in English) Agya kata janu bhako? Meaning, Agya, where are u going? He looked at us, smiled and replied in a peculiar way, singing a Hindi song -Main toh chala jidhar chalay rasta- I am going where the road goes.

Nowadays, I have not witnessed much of his lighter side that, but I am sure his boyish sense of humor is still intact. I take the cue from the comments he makes on his friend’s photographs on Facebook, which are more times than not funny, hinting that boy in him is still around.

The next episode I remember about Agya is a match during the All India Governor’s Gold Cup Football Tournament in Gangtok , which proved to be a turning point, with him bagging his first professional Contract with the Kolkatan giants, East Bengal Club. The year was 1992 and I had gone down to the Paljor Stadium with my Grandfather to watch the Semi-Final match between Sikkim Football Association (Blue) and Mohun Bagan AC.

My grandfather was a big football fanatic and was a decent player during his younger days. Now, coming back to the match, the atmosphere was electrifying and the stadium was packed, cheering the local side, which had reached the quarter finals after quite some time.

Agya playing for SFA (Blue) had a wonderful game. I understand that he didn’t play as an out and out striker, like he does today but as an Attacking Midfielder. He was running, sliding, winning tackles, winning duels, snatching the ball and making forays into the Mohun Bagan box. I recall here, he gave a very tough time to one of the Mohun Bagan defenders; if I am not mistaken, he was an African player named Christopher.

Mohun Bagan got ahead in the early minutes and SFA although tried their heart out, but failed to restore parity before the break, but in the second half SFA got a free-kick on the edge of the box. If my memory is not failing me, I guess Agya had won that free-kick. Devendra Gurung, another bright talent from our school stepped in to take the free kick. All the spectators were going mad in anticipation, in wake of a goal. Devendra took an in swinging shot; practical example would be like that of David Beckham, the ball went in curling, giving the Mohun Bagan goalie, no chance whatsoever.

The whole stadium erupted in Joy and I remember hugging my grandfather. But, the joy was short lived as Mohun Bagan edged past the home side, scoring later and SFA’s run in the Gold Cup came to an end.

Though SFA lost the game, it brought about the inception of another story of the Indian football’s living legend Bhaichung Bhutia. A star was born that day. I still remember my Grandfather telling me after the match-tero Dhaichung lay pura naam kamaocha, bahut ramro khelda raicha- your Dhaichung will earn a lot of name as he is a very good player. It’s funny the way he used to pronounce Bhaichung as Dhaichung.

Now, my memory jogs back to that school assembly which was more like a farewell for Agya, a bright star of our school. Within a year, everything was finalised with East Bengal and he was ready to leave his beloved Tashi Namgyal Academy, taking a huge leap in his life. The assembly was held at the football ground that day instead of the Auditorium, quite symbolic, as one of its best footballers was leaving the School. The Assembly proceeded at that very ground, where Agya used to train and play his matches.

After the school song, which was a tradition in our school on assembly days, Agya was invited by the Principal to share his experience and express his thoughts and feelings with the students. I don’t exactly remember what he said, but it was a short speech on the lines of “I will miss the school”- he was looking very sad and downcast, is all I can recollect at this stage.
May be I was too young, I did not go up to him and wish him luck and watched others doing that, but in my heart and mind, I did that.

After he went down to Kolkata for the next big step in his life, our school’s notice board used to have the paper cutting’s of his matches and we used to read those with a lot of interest. Even I pasted some of those and we all used to feel proud about his achievements.

As Agya was making his name and established himself at a big house Kolkata club, the paper cutting’s at notice board  were getting fewer and fewer. To be honest, No one’s to be blamed as he used to hit the headlines almost every match and I guess every student of TNA or for that matter whole of Sikkim was aware of what he was doing.

Simply put, he had become a Star now and his paper cuttings on the notice board was, I guess, were no more needed.
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