He is one of the most influential and popular player in the present generation. Anyone who follows Indian football has a strong opinion about him. Love him or hate him but you can’t ignore him. People who don’t follow Indian football know him. AIFF arranged an exhibition match against Bayern Munich as his farewell match. He is the first Asian to score a goal in the English league. He has played in England, Malaysia, been in TV shows, dance programs, started a club and his ambitions looks sky-high. His commitment in national colors is unquestionable. His views in media are taken seriously. In other words, he has been more than a just a footballer.
And yet when it comes to his name, people seem to be confused on how to spell it. Well, by people I am not just referring to general fans, but a large section of media. When I follow articles about Messi, Sneijder, Kompany or even Pavlyuchenko, I have never seen Messy, Snayder, Company and Pavleiuchinko, and yet our ‘perfectionist’ desi writers seem be confused about Indian football icon Mr. Bhutia’s first name!
So, here comes two important questions?
a) Why am I writing an article on such a small issue?
b) What really is Mr. Bhutia’s first name?
Why important? Why I am being all anal about it when many Indian footballers have different spelling all over the cyberspace? Yeah, Subrata is sometimes Pal and sometimes Paul, Sunil is both Chetri and Chettri, youth coach Toal is both Colm and Colin and there are many more such duality. However, as I said before, Bhutia represents more than just another football player. He in some sense represents Indian football, a notion which many would like to contradict including me. Yet when I talk to someone not knowing much about Indian football, they are most likely to say, “yeah, I know that the captain of the national team is Bhutia” or “I heard Bhutia is starting a club” (When they have no idea about I league or Indian clubs). In such a scenario, Bhutia definitely is the superstar of Indian football and as an Indian football journalist or writer, you are atleast supposed to know about how his name is being spelled. Recently one of my good friends, who is also a part-time football writer, told me how in a press conference a young ‘reporter’ of a reputed football media was even having trouble pronouncing his name! Just now I was reading a fantastic interview on Baichung Bhutia in a popular football magazine. I also read an article in a popular news website which uses Baichung in the title and Bhaichung in the content. One can also read stuff like “Baichung hopes to spread the Bhaichung Bhutia Football School”. I wonder whether the confusion stems from Bhutia himself or is it representing the casual approach of covering Indian football.
So, how’s his name spelled? The fact that one has to invest time and energy on finding the proper spelling on one of the present generation stalwarts of Indian football is a matter of shame. But anyways let’s go ahead and nail the issue. The most popular place to search ‘stuff’ is wikipedia, and it says – Baichung. Remember wiki is updated by people like you and me and they take data from online articles, so if reputed websites make mistakes, wiki will register the mistake as a fact. Wiki gives the reference of a book The PFA Premier & Football League Players’ Records 1946-2005. In most websites, searching Bhutia, gives both Baichung and Bhaichung. An AFC match report gives the name Bhaichung, but general AFC articles use both Baichung and Bhaichung. BBC, for his Bury FC stint reports, uses Baichung. FPAI, where he is the president, uses Bhaichung. United Sikkim FC where he is the CEO uses Bhaichung in there facebook updates. More importantly, his football school is called Bhaichung Bhutia Football School. But FIFA maintains his stats under Baichung Bhutia. AIFF, in its website, has used both Baichung and Bhaichung. All in all, the more you dwell into the details, the more confused you get. It seems that the institutions with which Bhutia is associated (USFC, FPAI, Football Schools), all use BHAICHUNG but most of his media reports etc uses BAICHUNG a lot. I am tempted to believe that Bhaichung is what he uses, but most probably early in his career, maybe when he moved to UK, he was registered as Baichung, from that most international media – BBC, FIFA, the players record book referred by wiki, all use Baichung.
I hope in recent future, someone interviewing him asks him this question. His views about Indian football, infrastructure, coaches, clubs have been heard a million times and I don’t really find much novelty in his recent media statements, except for witty statements like “India may need 800 years to qualify for the World Cup” or “When I watch the I-League, I feel like changing the channel“. So, my dear journos, next time when you interview him, forget about Indian football future or the Bob Houghton controversies and ask him to unravel the secret of his name.