Guwahati: A week after former Indian footballer Bhaichung Bhutia played his farewell match against Bayern Munich on January 10, 2012, his former school teacher, Leonard ‘Lenny’ Lefevre, penned his memories in the form of ballad. Over seven years down the line, the ‘ballad’ has now been turned into a hardbound coffee table book titled, The Ballad of Bhaichung Bhutia.
The book is based on the memories of the 42-year-old football legend in the form of a ballad (a poem or song narrating a story in short stanzas) and was launched by the Union minister of state for youth affairs and sports Kiren Rijiju recently.
The Ballad of Bhaichung Bhutia is a pleasure to read. Just sample some excerpts:
From a sleepy little village in the foothills of the Himalayan snows
With gurgling streams, rolling green hills and where the chill wind blows
Was born a young lad with a Big Dream and a Heart of Gold
The story of whose life and deeds will for centuries be told!”
They named him “Bhaichung” which means Little Brother,
And truth be told, he absolutely was like no other!
His eyes were filled with mischief and he just could not sit still;
From a very tender age you just knew that he was “License to Thrill”!
Lefevre taught Bhutia for five years at the prestigious Tashi Namgyal Academy in Gangtok, during which time he realised that Bhutia was a child full of positive energy.
He recalled an incident when Bhutia was suffering from jaundice and was advised complete bed rest. “No visitors were allowed. But when I went to visit him, I saw that he was playing with the football in his room,” reminisced Lefevre.
Commenting on Bhutia’s academic life, Lefevre said, “He was a very bright student and did excellently well in Maths. He was also very observant right from his childhood. Bhaichung was the life of the class.”
Although, Bhutia started his education at St Xavier’s School in Pakyong, East Sikkim, he won a football scholarship from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to attend the Tashi Namgyal Academy in Gangtok at the age of nine years.
Speaking with EastMojo, Lefevre further said, “We decided to release it as a book to tell the story of Bhutia’s life because he comes from a very small village in South Sikkim but went on to become the captain of the Indian team. We also wanted to highlight all the achievements in between of the youngest player who ever in Team India. He captained India and took the team to great heights. In case, people forgot about his contribution, this is a very good time to remind them what he had done for the country.”
Lefevre also wanted motivate youngsters who come from small, rural backgrounds. “They can read his story and find motivation and inspiration for whatever they want to take up in their life. It doesn’t have to be football, it could be archery, boxing, running, swimming or any field where they are really interested. I wanted to show them that, yes, you can make it bigger in life, no matter where you come from,” he further said.
The book, The Ballad of Bhaichung Bhutia, laid in limbo for all of seven years until Chewang Rinchen Subursuknee Lepcha, senior communication designer at Echostream in Gangtok, brought it back to life with his amazing illustrations.
“I was in Bombay [Mumbai] when we spoke about the idea. But after I moved here in Gangtok, we started working on it. Sir [Leonard Lefevre] has written the ballads so beautifully; we thought that it should reach to all the kids here in hills or from any other place” Lepcha told EastMojo.
“Sir has looked after so many kids, he also works in an orphanage school. He will be sidelining a portion of the profits from this book, if we do make any, towards outing it back to the system. This will be to encourage and support the sports persons from rural areas,” he added.