When a football fanatic meets Bhaichung Bhutia, the world just stops!

More often than not, a day in office starts with roadblocks and challenges, in pursuit of excellence. However, for once, it was different, in fact, out of the blue. After battling traffic during peak hours, I reached office and while I had just switched on my laptop to start my work, I got a call from my boss. Normally, a boss’ phone call is not an auspicious way to start your day at office but today, as I said was out of the blue. He said with authority, “Bhaichung Bhutia is coming at our office in half an hour for a meeting. Be ready.” And then I went into an overdrive, thinking the torchbearer of Indian football is just 30 mins away from my naked eyes and my morning coffee is awaiting some esteemed company.

For a football fanatic like me, who burns the midnight oil to watch a glimpse of a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Lionel Messi, here was a thunderbolt of a prospect: Getting to meet Bhaichung, the star who has kept Indian football alive and kicking in a cricket-obsessed nation. It got my adrenaline going as I was minutes away from meeting the face of Indian football for the past decade and a half.

Bhutia comes with a dazzling CV. Nicknamed “Sikkimese Sniper”, the former Indian star striker has had four spells with iconic club East Bengal. He started and ended his career at this beloved I-league club. When he joined English club Bury in 1999, he became the first Indian footballer to sign a contract with a European club. In Indian colours, he was the country’s favourite son to the extent that he is fondly known as Mr. Football in India.

I was blessed but not that lucky to escort Bhutia to our office’s meeting room as the top brass from my organization landed that bonanza. It got me a little restless that the most lethal striker to have ever donned an Indian jersey is centimetres away from me. After 30 minutes of their discussion, Bhutia entered my COO’s room and it was here that my moment arrived.

Bhutia, cool as cucumber, dressed in maroon trouser and a cheque shirt, was a sight to behold. I exchanged pleasantries with him, introduced myself and finally words came out my mouth and we got into a full-fledged conversation mode. We discussed grass roots football in India but at the back of my mind, Bhutia and his demeanour, caught my imagination. Like a monk, he was calm and collected. He was supremely fit even at the age of 41 and I couldn’t help but wonder why has he retired and why isn’t he still playing. He was speaking with a lot of heart and emotion for football. Humble to the core and gentlemanly in his every conduct, he entertained me as if I knew him since his playing days.

He said, “Schools India Cup is one of the biggest tournaments in India and students-athletes participating this season would get a platform to compete with the best grass roots talent in their age group. It’s wonderful opportunity to represent your school, represent your state and represent your country. So, come and participate.”

Now he was signing off. But here was lesson for me. Great achievers are humble, polite, communicative, thoughtful and a lesson for posterity. He seemed to have delivered a message to me on what was a titanic day for me professionally: Be fit. Be confident. Be humble. And the rest happens. It just happens.

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