Bhaichung Bhutia: Top clubs need to be a part of development programme

The former India captain says I-League and ISL clubs need to participate in a long-term development programme to aid the growth of Indian football.

Bhaichung Bhutia...“There is a huge scope for development.” - K. V. S. GIRI

Clubs need to ensure that the youth development process is on the right track to aid the growth of Indian football, feels former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia.

The iconic footballer, who is the inspiration behind a long-running youth development initiative under his name in Delhi, said it required serious participation of clubs belonging to top leagues like the Indian Super League to spark the development process.

'Huge scope for improvement'

When asked how he would rate it, Bhutia said the scenario was quite dismal. “In terms of development we are still low and on a scale of 10 I cannot put anything more than three or four. This is to say that there is a huge scope for development,” he said.

“It has to be a long-term development programme and every ISL and I-League club has to adequately contribute in that process. This is something that is missing in the development efforts in Indian football for long,” Bhutia pointed out.

Sustained development 'missing'

Bhutia felt that the growth process had been really slow because India’s top leagues like the ISL did not provide enough impetus to the growth process as it is primarily a “closed” tournament.

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“I am hopeful that slowly and steadily the standard is going to go up. I cannot exactly say how but once the top league of the country gets to have the relegation and promotion system and the clubs start working seriously on grooming their own talents then only we can see some sustained development which is quite missing now,” Bhutia said.

No clear favourites

Did the Indian football icon have a favourite in the ISL that gets underway on Friday? Bhutia said there were no clear favourites.  “It is too early to assess their strengths per se; one cannot really make out how they stand in terms of preparation. There are no clear favourites for me because of the pandemic and the situation in the way in which the tournament is being held (in a ‘Cup’ format),” Bhutia said when asked to spell out the side he would like to follow.

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Despite not being sure about a favourite, Bhutia was certain that the legacy clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan would have some advantage because of their huge support base.

“The legacy factor will be definitely playing a role in putting them on an advantage over the others,” said the man who has been honoured as the biggest ‘find of the century’ by East Bengal, a club that recently turned 100.