Bhaichung Bhutia was born on 15 December 1976. In addition to football, Bhutia also represented his school at badminton, basketball and athletics. His parents, both farmers in Sikkim, were originally not keen on Bhutia's interest in sports. However, after encouragement from his uncle, Karma Bhutia, he started his education in St. Xaviers School, Pakyong, East Sikkim, and at the age of nine he won a football scholarship from SAI to attend the Tashi Namgyal Academy in Gangtok. He went on to play for several school and local clubs in his home state of Sikkim, including the Gangtok-based Boys Club, which was managed by Karma. His performance at the 1992 Subroto Cup, where he won the "Best Player" award, brought him to the notice of the football establishment. Former India goalkeeper Bhaskar Ganguly spotted his talent and helped him make the transition to Calcutta football.