Indian football legend Baichung Bhutia has retired from international football earlier today (READ HERE). Baichung announced his decision at a press conference held at the headquarters of the All India Football Federation.
“It is a hard decision for any footballer to decide on his retirement and I wasn’t any exception. But everyone has to retire one day. I wanted to retire after playing a match but recurring injuries prevented me from donning the India jersey for one more time,” Baichung announced in front of over a hundred journalists who had come for the occasion.
“I’m lucky enough to still be associated with football. My association with United Sikkim Football Club and my Football Schools will keep me going,” Baichung added.
AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das lauded Baichung for all his achievements. “All good things come to an end and the AIFF will be seeking his support for the future development of the sport in the country,” Das said.
Kushal Das felicitated Baichung on behalf of the AIFF with a specially designed silver plaque and a shawl.
AIFF President Praful Patel thanked Baichung in message for his contribution to Indian football.
“I thank Baichung Bhutia for his wonderful contribution to Indian Football and the joy he has provided to all Indians by his performance and leadership of the Indian Team in a long and illustrious career. He is a true icon of Indian Football and it is indeed a sad day that he has decided to hang his boots from International Football,” Patel’s message read.
Baaichung spoke to the-aiff.com at length about his experiences, his future plans and even didn’t hesitate to take his favourite picks after the press conference at the Football House.
How much difficult was this decision for you?
I won’t say it was extremely difficult. I have been out of competitive football for quite some time now and despite having trained hard, recurring injuries have kept me out. So I had taken this decision some time back. Someday or the other everyone has to call it a day.
What has been your best moment on the field?
The most memorable moment was Qualifying for the Asian Cup. It was a huge achievement. And as it happened in front of the home crowd, it was all the more sweet.
As a kid I dreamt of playing for the World Cup. That hasn’t happened as yet. Off-course, it isn’t that easy. But someday in the future, I’d like to travel with my kids and family to witness India play in the World Cup.
Do you believe Indian football is in safe hands?
I believe it is. The players are a much professional bunch. They won’t compromise on their training even for a day. Football is their bread and butter. I have high hopes on Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpeklua. There’s plenty of talent around.
What’s the way ahead for Indian football?
We need to stress on the Youth Development Programme. The clubs can never escape that responsibility. Clubs all around the World have their own grass root Programme. The Indian Clubs need to take a leaf out of their book.
Who’s the best Indian Player you have played with?
Undoubtedly IM Vijayan. He was a class apart. He had the talent to play anywhere in the World. But it’s sad there wasn’t anyone to guide him at that moment.
Who has been your favourite coach so far?
It is difficult to pick an individual. Under Bob Houghton, we won three tournaments; under Stephen Constantine we won the LG Cup. I can also never forget Rustam Akramov’s decision to move me upfront as a striker from the midfield. Also under Sukhwinder Singh, we had a wonderful run where we missed out qualification to the final round of the World Cup by a whisker. So I have had memorable moments under each and every coach I have played under.
Do you plan to join football administration in the future?
I’m already an administrator-cum-player in my club, United Sikkim Football Club. Right now, apart from UFSC, I’ll concentrate on my Football Schools and take things as they come my way.
(Written with excerpts from an AIFF Press Release / Picture courtesy: the-aiff.com)