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Home > Sports > Doha Asian Games > Report

Bhutia pained to sit out of Iran tie

N D Prashant | December 06, 2006 17:12 IST

The Indian football team faces a do-or-die situation when it takes on Iran at the Asian Games on Wednesday.

After a 1-1 draw against Hong Kong and 2-1 victory over Maldives, Baichung Bhutia's boys need to beat mighty Iran to advance to the quarter-final stage of the tournament in Doha.

As only the top teams from each of the six groups qualify for the quarter-finals, along with two best second-placed teams, India certainly have a mountain to climb. The task is going to be all the more difficult as the team will be without skipper Bhutia, who has to miss the match after picking two yellow cards in the earlier matches.

Probably Bhutia may have played his last match at the Asian Games if India fails to qualify for the next round. He knows that well enough and admits that it is going to hurt watching from the sidelines.

"I don't know if I will be a part of the team in the next Asian Games and I am disappointed to be sitting out now. I have been fortunate to play and lead the country for so long. But, yes, at times you feel more could have been achieved," said Bhutia, who is playing in his third Asian Games.

Bhutia has been the face of Indian football for long and feels nothing much has changed with the game in India.

"There have been changes but not very significant ones. That's one of the regrets. While other countries in Asia have taken giant steps, our country has lacked behind. It is disheartening to see that.

"Maybe when I sit back and think after I have hung my boots, I might feel had I been born in a different system things, things may have been different for me," said Bhutia, who gave the team a 50-50 chance against Iran.

He is all praise the team's new English coach, Bob Houghton.

"We need someone like Bob. A person with his experience has come late into my career, but I am glad; though late, I am under someone from whom I can learn a lot," said Bhutia, who agrees with Bob's view of stressing on the physical aspect of players.

"If you see the last five matches, we have conceded all the goals through airborne attacks. We played well against Yemen, Japan and Saudi Arabia, and every time we lost out the same way. So we need tall, well-built players," said Bhutia, who felt India still lacks quality coaches at the grassroot level.

"It's important to have good coaches, not in hundreds but thousands. However, there is a limit to what coaches can do. You have to have a good grassroot level plan for young players. Only then can we look at playing well in the later years. Money is an important factor here and for that co-operate sponsors have to come forward."

Bhutia is the only Indian professional footballer who had a short stint with English football club Bury FC. However, he reveals how tough it was to make his presence felt there.

"More Indian footballers should go abroad and play like me. That will help the player and the overall football. The game demands a lot and abroad it is a very serious sport. An Indian player is not taken seriously there. In fact, if you go to the UK and say that you are a footballer from India, it is much harder to prove yourself. Simply because, if you are looking for a cricketer you will go to Australia and not to Brazil," commented Bhutia, who also expressed disappointment on, at times, leading a side without the right blend of players.

"It's frustrating as a skipper if you have to play with limited resources. We haven't found anyone good after Vijayan. However, the current lot is a good, young team. Hopefully, we can see a brighter side of Indian football in future."

Doha Asian Games 2006: The Complete Coverage

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