Wednesday, July 30, 2008

AFC Challenge Cup’08: Baichung Bhutia On India’s Campaign

Indian national football team captain Baichung Bhutia was in an optimistic mood ahead of India’s Group A opener against Afghanistan on Wednesday.

India are one of the favourites for the AFC Challenge Cup’08 and are pooled in Group A along with Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. They start against Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Indian skipper Baichung Bhutia spoke to on India’s preparation for the competition and was in a hopeful and buoyant mood. He highlighted the boost the Portugal tour has given them and remarked: ”The preparation has been going on well for the matches of the AFC Challenge Cup’08. The match against Malaysia was also a good preparation.”

Bhutia also expressed some doubts on the training facilities available to them in Hyderabad. He told’s Rahul Bali:

“Training grounds were not quite up to the mark. The Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium was not in a good condition.”

India are likely to miss winger Steven Dias and defender Mahesh Gawli, two players considered vital for India. Although Bhutia admits that they are important players, he is certain that their replacements can be equally good.

“Their chances of making it to the first match are slim. The players are very imporant. But Gourmanghi Singh and Anwar Ali have been doing really well in the recent matches. Dias is a very good player but Bunho has also been doing well.”

The Indian skipper also believes that India’s matches in Portugal have given them a good boost and said, ”It was really good. The infrastructure was good. The teams were not very good but they were not bad either.”

Moving to other matters, Baichung Bhutia shared his view on the new AFC ruling which states that India has to have one club in the AFC Champions League. Bhutia said, ”It has to be from the grassroots level. A proper infrastructure is very essential for hem. The entire system has to undergo a major change.”

The 31-year old favours corporate involvement in football and said that it is really interesting” and added, ”That would be a good backing.”

Baichung Bhutia has his own football club in Sikkim, United Sikkim, which he started with some of his friends two years ago. Bhutia is very much dedicated to his team and whenever he is in Sikkim, he helds the players at his club in trainings and with advice. He says that there is a lot of potential in the north eastern part of India but admits, ”Someone has to tap it up.”

Baichung Bhutia played in the Goal 4 Africa match held at the Allianz Arena in Munich earlier this month but the ever modest Baichung, when asked about his experience and feelings about that match, simply said, ”It was really good. It was fun.”

Reported by: Rahul Bali
Written by: Subhankar Mondal