Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia was felicitated by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Delhi Soccer Association (DSA) for appearing in his 100th international match here.
Bhutia was presented with a memento and a bouquet before the Nehru Cup match against Kyrgyzstan at the Ambedkar Stadium.
Interestingly, the 32-year-old from Sikkim earned this rare distinction in the same tournament where he made his debut in 1995 against Thailand, coming in as a replacement for his idol I.M.Vijayan. In the next match against Uzbekistan, Bhutia scored his first international goal as India registered a shocking win over then Asian Games champions.
“It is a great honour to play the 100th match for my country. When I started playing, I never thought that I would go on to play 100 international matches,” Bhaichung said.
The Indian captain burst on the scene in the 1992 Subroto Cup and by the next year had signed up for East Bengal. He was 16 at that time.
Having played for both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, Bhaichung became the first Indian to play for an overseas club, spending three years at Bury in England from 1999 to 2002.
He came back and joined Mohun Bagan, but after an unsuccessful season shifted to East Bengal. One of the high points in his career came when East Bengal became the first Indian club to win an international title, the ASEAN Cup, in 2003.
Bhutia touched another peak when he led the national team to the AFC Challenge Cup victory at the Ambedkar Stadium last year. With the win, India also qualified for the 2011 Asian Cup after 24 years.
Bhutia has been the national captain on and off for the last 10 years. Under his captaincy, India have won three tournaments - the LG Cup in Vietnam in 2002, the Nehru Cup in 2007 and the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008.