''Tibetans in Sikkim are very grateful to Bhaichung Bhutia for supporting our cause,'' Sikkim Tibetan Youth Club president Zimba Pencho told UNI today.Mr Bhutia's home state has around 5,000 Tibetan refugees. Recently, the STYC members had joined a protest march by the Northeast Zonal Tibetan Youth Congress at Rangpo to demand a passage to Tibet through the Nathu La pass. Mr Pencho added that all the Tibetans as well as Mr Bhutia's friends in Sikkim were elated over his stand.
Sherap Lepcha, Mr Bhutia's close buddy, also endorsed his stand.
They had studied and played club football together in Kolkata with the Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.
''Bhaichung told me that he was withdrawing from the Olympic torch relay as he was concerned over the Tibetans' cause,'' Mr Lepcha said.
Meanwhile, the star footballer's mentor and uncle Karma T Bhutia claimed that he had no inkling about Bhaichung's plans.
''It is upto him to take his own decision. If it was something related to football, I would have advised him,'' Karma T Bhutia said.
Bhaichung had reportedly taken the decision on his own and no appeal had been made to him by the Tibetan community to withdraw from the Olympic torch relay.
''I sympathise with the Tibetans and their cause,'' Bhaichung told mediapersons in Sikkim yesterday.