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Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK

World: South Asia

India soccer star joins UK club

Baichung Bhutia turns out in the colours of his new club

One of India's best known footballers has arrived in the UK to join second division Bury on a three-year contract, after he was granted a work permit by the British Government.

The BBC's Peter Stevenson: "He's known as the superstar of India"
Bhaichung Bhutia made history when he became the first Indian to be signed up by a professional European club. He has a distinguished international record, scoring more than 30 goals for his country.

Bury officials say Bhutia could be playing in the club's first team within the month, and are hoping his signing will bring out the local Asian community in support.

India's star

Originally from the tiny Himalayan state of Sikkim, Bhaichung Bhutia has been playing for East Bengal - one of the few professional clubs in India.

He turned professional at 16, after he was spotted by talent scouts and has become one of India's highest paid players.

He has been nicknamed the "boyish soccer star from Sikkim" and compared to England's own top scoring teenager, Michael Owen.

The Indian international has had trials with a number of English football clubs.

But it was Bury, in north-west England, which took the plunge and signed him for three years.


Bury's Chairman Terry Robinson said it was a positive move for the club and for the game in general.

The BBC's John Thorne reports on the transfer
He hoped his club's new signing would open up a new audience to the professional game in this country, and encourage Asian youngsters to be more interested in the game and get involved with professional football clubs.

Many English football clubs have been on the lookout for Asian players recently.

Already there is a growing number of British Asian footballers who are prominent in amateur soccer.

In the Premiership, Harpal Singh has been put on the reserve list with Leeds United, and he could become the first British Asian professional player in the country's most prestigious league.

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