Indian football fraternity icon and former captain of the national team Bhaichung Bhutia claims that the team’s primary focus should be to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup and the FIFA youth World Cups.
Since his retirement from the Indian team back in 2011, Bhaichung Bhutia has been articulated on the development of new players into the squad, especially in the youth sector.
We need to be strong at the grassroots: Bhaichung Bhutia
Speaking to AIFF (All India Football Federation) TV, Bhutia claimed that to become a heavyweight in the Asian football scene, India has to focus at the primary level to churn out promising footballers for the squad.
“For the national team, we need to keep producing good quality players,” Bhutia said, “We do have good players at the moment but if we want to compete with the best in Asia, we need to keep producing bigger and better players.”
“AIFF has focused on grassroots a lot. We need to be strong at the grassroots and we are working on it,” the 43 year old added.
A prolific striker in his prime which earned him the nickname ‘Sikkimese Sniper’, Bhaichung Bhutia took India to glory at the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup which earned the Men in Blue a berth at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.
Unfortunately, early injuries hampered Bhutia’s game time in the group stage matches. India also suffered an early exit from the tournament, finishing at the bottom of their group.
He also mentioned the importance of earning regular berths at the AFC Asian Cup, as well as the FIFA youth World Cups.
“Our target for the national teams should be qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup and the FIFA youth World Cups on a regular basis,” Bhutia added.
in 2017, India became the first Asian country to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup, in which England were the crowned champions, defeating Spain 5-2 in the final.
A legendary figure at both the two rival clubs of Kolkata- East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, Bhutia has made 82 international appearances, and has scored 41 times.
Bhutia went on praising the improvement of infrastructure in the present Indian football system compared to his playing days, mentioning the betterment of coaching staff as well as the level of competition in the country.
“We had fewer games in comparison and often would get drawn against tough teams in qualification games,” Bhutia went on speaking the increased number of games the Indian team plays compared to the last decade, “Players now are getting many more matches and so much exposure. It has helped them to improve and get better over time.”
Bhutia also praised the Indian Super League and the constructive effect it has brought on the country’s football scene.
“With the Hero ISL coming in, you can see that the infrastructure, training grounds, matches, coaching and quality of pitches are of much higher standards,” he acknowledged.