Inspired by Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia, FC Bengaluru United goalkeeper Kunzang Bhutia decided, at a very young age, that football would be his career of choice. In order to pursue his dream, he moved from his village to his aunt’s home in the city. Today, Kunzang is one of the most experienced players in the domestic circuit, having played for several second division as well as reserve sides of top Indian Super League (ISL) clubs.
"My village, Lachung, didn't have proper facilities, so I shifted to my aunt's place in Gangtok during my school days,” recalls Kunzang. “My uncle and aunt helped in whatever way they could so I could play football without any difficulties.” His first “big break” came when he captained the Sikkim Under-16 team in the Goa sub-junior nationals before joining SAI, Sikkim. “After that, I played for the youth side at Royal Wahingdoh, and then, I spent three years at I-league club Shillong Lajong.”
Kunzang was part of the NorthEast United squad for the inaugural edition of the ISL in 2014. He also played for ATK and Hyderabad FC before joining FC Bengaluru United in 2020. He had a brief stint with Mohammedan SC before returning to FC Bengaluru United in 2021. “I was fortunate to be part of the FC Bengaluru United team that won the 2020–21 Bangalore Super Division League. It has been a great journey so far with this club and I would like to make the most out of the opportunities I get here at FC Bengaluru United."
In 2018, the Sikkim-based player wanted to raise awareness about the prohibition of Drug Abuse and Plastic Ban in his home state and encourage youngsters to turn to sports over drugs. As part of this initiative, he cycled for eight hours, covering 125kms from Gangtok to Lachung.
Kunzang describes his time with FC Bengaluru United as “a different experience altogether. They have a professional approach as compared to other clubs. The facilities provided by them are really helping their players - I haven't seen any other club provide such facilities to their players.
"During my time as a youth footballer, second division clubs were only interested in qualifying for the I-league. They focused only on their top teams and not youth development. But I feel Bengaluru United is setting an example in Indian Football. They are investing in the youth, and they have a good structure at the Academy level too. Their vision is different; they give equal importance to the grassroots development, apart from qualifying to the I-league. I think it's the future of Indian Football," he concluded.
Featured photo: BengaluruUnited