Iconic footballer Baichung Bhutia got a grand farewell at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Tuesday though it was Bayern Munich who stole the show pumping in four goals and making it look too easy against the Indian team.
The Bavarians led 4-0 in the first half with goals from striker Mario Gomez (14th), Thomas Mueller (28th and 37th) and Bastian Schwiesteiger (43rd). In the second half, the Indian team fought valiantly to go down with a respectable scoreline.
The 30,000-odd fans didn't bother too much about the number of goals scored, they relished how the Bavarians got them. For India, every minute was a learning experience of what European football is all about.
The atmosphere was electrifying and the talking point was whether this team Indian could stop the Germans from getting to the margin by which their predecessors in 1991 lost on a similar chilly January afternoon. The Dutch club PSV Eidenhoven had pumped in seven without reply at the packed stadium.
Though this time the showpiece stadium of the Commonwealth Games was only half-filled, the attendance was enough to create a deafening support for the Indian team.
In 2008 a packed Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata gave a grand farewell to legendary German and Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, Tuesday was Delhi's turn to honour Bhutia, who remained a crowd puller during an era when Indian football was in its sorry stage.
Emotions ran high among fans, when Bhutia, who retired last August after being frustrated with a spate of injuries, posed for the photographers with Bayern captain Phillip Lahm with a Bayern jersey that had the Indian's name on it.
Fans went wild every time Bhutia touched the ball. Though it was a one-way traffic but for Indian fans it was surely a double delight.
Bayern, who are on their third trip to India, have come with their best team, and the grand farewell for Bhutia was something unheard of in past in Indian sports. Bhutia was also honoured with an Audi Q8. The doubts over his ability to last the full 90 minutes were belied when he came out after the breather and was substituted barely five minutes from the end. Bhutia got a standing ovation and embraced his coach and team mates in the dugout.
The star-studded Bayern Munich team started with some of the top European stars - Thomas Mueller, Arjen Robben, Mario Gomez, Frank Ribbery, Phillip Lahm, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Bastian Schwiensteiger and goalkeeper Manuel Neur.
Bhutia was well marked by Jerome Boateng and every time the Indian skipper tried to dodge him the fans cheered lustily. Bhutia even managed to went past Boateng and had just the Neur to beat but it showed that age was surely not his side.
For Bayern Munich the match was a part of their preparation for the second half of the Bundesliga that starts Friday. They showed no mercy and as predicted didn't take long for the Bavarians to the find the net, with Gomez finding the first of the four in the 14th minute to open the flood-gate.
Meuller, winner of Golden Boot in the 2010 World Cup, also showed his class chipping in two while Schweinsteiger sent a strong message to coach Jupp Heynckes with a powerful long ranger that he has recovered from his injury.
Keeping the scoreline down to 0-4 can be seen as a creditable performance by India, who are ranked 162nd in the Fifa rankings. Bayern looked like they are from a different planet as compared to India for whom the match will stand in good stead in the years to come.
Finally, Bhutia's journey that started from a sleepy hamlet in Tinkitam in Sikkim in 1993 ended and even in last match he contributed for a noble cause ensuring that some of the proceeds from the match will be given to the earthquake victims of his home state.