Bhutia echoes Stimac's views, says India needs friendlies ahead of FIFA 2022 WC qualifiers
Bhaichung Bhutia felt the Indian football team should have had a preparatory camp ahead of its FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan and Oman.
"If the National team starts doing well, then football in the country will pick up and the ISL, I-League will all benefit," said Bhaichung Bhutia on Thursday.
After Sunil Chhetri, former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia too echoed National coach Igor Stimac’s views that India ought to have had a preparatory camp ahead of the FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan and Oman on November 15 and 19 respectively.
The fourth round of the Indian Super League (ISL 2019-20) is scheduled to end on November 10, leaving Stimac with just three full days to prepare his team for the game in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the home base of Afghanistan.
“We need to give at least a week or so for the team to be together and play one or two friendlies,” Bhutia said on the sidelines of an event organised to announce a three-year tie up between Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools and public sector entity HAL.
“We are still a developing nation in terms of football and if the game has to grow it has to be through the National team. If the National team starts doing well, then football in the country will pick up and the ISL, I-League will all benefit,” he added.
To listen to Sportstar's first fortnightly preview of the ISL 2019-20, check out - The Full Time Show. (Hint: we've got a couple of pointers for Stimac too!)
After an encouraging display against Oman, India gallantly held Asian champion Qatar to a goalless draw but couldn’t manage a win against a much less-fancied Bangladesh. However, more than the waxing on waning of form, Bhutia was concerned about the team’s future when its talisman Sunil Chhetri, who recently turned 35, retires.
“I am a bit worried. Once Sunil goes, we don't have someone to score even half of his goals. There is a vacuum. Defence is also a big worry. When I was playing, there was [I.M.] Vijayan, Jo Paul [Ancheri] and then I came in, then Sunil. There was quality across positions. Now I am scared because there is significant gap between those who will leave in the next few years and those who are coming in.”
But one name that does excite Bhutia is that of young goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, who was part of India’s U-17 team at the FIFA World Cup in 2017. The teenager, now at ISL side ATK, received a maiden call-up from Stimac on Wednesday.
“He can go on to become one of our best; much better than even Gurpreet [Sandhu]. I have seen him closely and he is a big hope. But I am a little disappointed with the rest of the U-17 boys. The change of coach six months before the World Cup was a big blow. Yes, it was because of the circumstances; the boys revolted. But overall we didn't manage it properly. As an association we weren't firm,” he stated.