The ongoing historic tournament has been the breeding ground for some of the greatest players to ever play for the Blue Tigers.

The Subroto Cup is underway, with schools from all around the country and the world vying for the prestigious title. The youth tournament has been taking place since 1960, having created some special moments and players over the decades. Acting as the perfect stepping stone for young players trying to find their feet in the game, the tournament has been an important sub-junior competition for years.

Moreover, it has also produced some top-level talent for the Indian football fraternity. Many legends were first sighted with their impressions in the tournament, allowing them to sign up with bigger clubs and stride their way into the history books. There are some surprising names of players to have found the spotlight in the Subroto Cup, as we take a look at five of these.

5. Bijen Singh

The former East Bengal striker caught the Red and Gold Brigaders attention with his solid work in the Subroto Cup during the 1996 edition. He played for Imphal’s Sainik School, impressing everyone with his goal-scoring ability and superior striking sense whilst going forward. Sainik School couldn’t go all the way, but Bijen’s fantastic talent was recognized by the scouts.

He was soon roped in for East Bengal and played a bright part banging in goals during the late 90s’, early 21st century period.   Bijen went onto play for Mohammedan Sporting, Salgaocar and Dempo, but it was his early stint at East Bengal which is most memorable for his impressive contribution to their dominance.

4. Parminder Singh

A former India-international, Parminder Singh is remembered for his unbridled contribution for JCT over the 1970s’ as well as the 1980s’. A dynamic midfielder with a fearlessness whilst going forward, Parminder initially caught the eye of the Indian football scene when playing for State Sports School in 1973. He emerged as one of the standout players from the tournament, with his powerful striking ability as well as his quick movement dazzling many following the competition.

He even received a school scholarship with his impressive work and that breakthrough tournament shaped up a glittering career. Singh went onto captain the Indian national team, played as part of the “Asian all stars” team against the legendary Brazilian 1982 and played a crucial role in JCT’s dominance.

3. Sunil Chhetri

India’s captain fantastic has broken records left, right and centre over the years, highlighting the country’s name in the footballing ladder. Sunil Chhetri has come long way into his 15+ year long career, become India’s top goal-scorer and also having made the most number of appearances for the country. However, his journey started at a young age when he made a bright impression in the Subroto Cup for Mamta Modern School.

Chhetri was always aspirant for big things as a footballer, but exposure from the inter-school tournament definitely helped him grasp the competitiveness in the professional level. While his Subroto Cup contribution isn’t as memorable as his recent one, there’s little doubt competing in the legendary tournament definitely helped mature him as a player.

2. Shyam Thapa

Widely recognized as one of the very best players produced by India in history, Shyam Thapa provided delight to Mohun Bagan fans and sorrow for East Bengal fans during his wonderful work during the 1970s. However, much before his rise to prominence, Thapa found his resolve in the Subroto Cup. Playing for the Gorka Military High Secondary School in the 1964 edition, Thapa dazzled onlookers with his wonderful work with the ball. 

He scored the winner in the final for Gorkha, handing his school prestigious competition and earning attention from scouts and coaches. East Bengal’s JC Guha tracked his development and later signed him up for his club two years later, but Thapa’s stunning work as a teenager in the Subroto Cup is what kick-started his phenomenal career.

1. Bhaichung Bhutia

The Sikkimese Sniper enjoyed a legendary career over the span of nearly two decades and 82 international appearances for the Indian national team, but it all began with his incredible showing in the 1992 Subroto Cup. Bhutia was always fond of football and participated in regular school tournaments, but received his breakthrough when he played for Tashi Namgyal Academy, Gangtok in the reputed inter-school competition.

Bhutia ended up being an absolute nightmare for the opposition with his fantastic goal-scoring work upfront. He won the “Best Player” award for his heroics throughout the competition, even though his school didn’t progress into the finals. A year after his breakthrough, he was signed up by East Bengal with Bhaskar Ganguly’s scouting and the rest, as they say, is history.