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Shooting star: Bhaichung Bhutia fires a hat-trick of different kind

Bhaichung Bhutia

DIMAPUR, FEBRUARY 29: With his star wattage undimmed even in retirement ~ and adoration enhanced recently after taking a lonely stand against corrupt officialdom in Indian football ~ Bhaichung Bhutia arrived in Nagaland for one more time with a hat-trick of messages: invest in grassroots football, learn from South America’s football scene, and he is far from being done with the one-man insurrection against All India Football Federation (AIFF).
“I don’t really think we need great infrastructure. The problem, not just with Nagaland but entire India, is when we speak of infrastructure, we think of stadiums. We don’t need to build stadiums, we need to build football grounds where kids come and play.
“Make a good ground, give footballs ~ you need to have access to footballs in a ground. If you have good ground but you don’t have a football to play, the kids are just sitting around. So make access to sports, make access to the ground. We don’t need a Rs 400 crore stadium; you need just Rs 40 lakh, Rs 50 lakh (with) good grounds where kids can come and play”, he told journalists on Thursday at Niuland Town.
Bhaichung, the poster-boy when football was still a second-class sport in the county, was there to attend the closing function of Western Sumi Sports Association (WSSA) 25th anniversary sports meet, in his capacity as an Advisor to WSSA.
According to him, football in South America is the perfect illustration of his point about not requiring “great infrastructure” to produce good players.
“The best players come from there. They don’t have huge stadiums, all the players come and play village-level, street-level football and they become the best players. I think we need to focus on just building good grounds (and not huge stadiums)”, he said.
When prodded, the former India captain declined to put a finger on what he thinks ails football in Nagaland.
“I seriously don’t know why Nagas are lagging. The most important thing is we need to focus on the grassroots. I think tournaments like this in every village should happen ~ to promote football, sports in every village, every district is very, very important. And that’s how the players come out”, he shared.
The current regime of Nagaland Football Association (NFA), he noted, has “started working much more” than its predecessors. His advice to the NFA: invest a lot in grassroots coaching programmes and tournaments.
“First thing is we need to produce more coaches. Last year, WSSA sent 10-12 coaches to Bhaichung Bhutia Football School (BBFS) to train and interact. Those things are very, very required because to train the kids, you need to train the coaches first.
“This is just a small thing (WSSA-BBFS arrangement). I think the Government and the Football Association should make sure that a lot of ex-footballers, retired footballers, are given first priority to become good coaches and then they can pass on the knowledge and start promoting a lot of young players”, he said.
An unassuming icon all through his professional years, Bhaichung took on AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey last year ~ only to lose 33-1 to Chaubey in the election to be AIFF President, thanks to brazen politicking.
When asked if he still harbours ambition of leading Indian football administration, Bhaichung’s response was prompt: “Yes, I think that’s something I would obviously be doing in future”.
He repeated his call for changes within the AIFF. “If you look at today’s Times of India as well, there’s a lot of allegations against the President in terms of misuse of funds. I think we need to bring in good, clean people who are willingly, from the heart, passionate to really promote sports in India and the NE and Nagaland.
“I think if we don’t have people who are passionate about taking and promoting the game further, just to sit there as President of State Associations or President of Federations just for the chair, then I think football and sports are not going to grow. And that needs changes from the States and that needs changes from the Federation. And I think we need to bring in passionate people who really love the sport and are not just there sitting for the chair”, he said.
The 33-1 loss in the election, he asserted, was not a disappointment at all but rather an important landmark.
“Football Federation (in India) had not had an election for the last 40 years. I, as a footballer, did not know who the President was, when the election happened. I think it’s important that there has to be an election.
“Whether I lose or win is a different thing. But at least after 40 years, we had one election for the first time. And I think that brought out so much limelight, that brought out so much of headlines, people are aware that there’s an election in FA, people know what’s happening. Whenever people don’t work and don’t take the sports forward, we need to change those people”, he asserted.
(Page News Service)