Tuesday, June 26, 2007

10 years of change will make Indian football great

Baichung Bhutia, once dubbed the Maradona of India, took Indian football to new heights when he became the first Indian footballer to break into European football. On a visit to the neighbouring Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan as a brand ambassador for TMT Steel, the Indian captain, well-known to Bhutanese fans for his “bicycle kick”, said hard work and determination is the key to success in football. “You have to love the game, fight difficulties to succeed,” the Mohun Bagan FC striker told Ugyen Penjore of Kuense-Online.

The journey from school football in Tinkitam in Sikkim to Bury FC, then an English Second Division club, was full of challenges. “Coming to Kolkata was a different experience because I had to adjust to a new environment and life. But I worked hard,” he said. Baichung joined Bury in mid-season 1999. “I always wanted to play outside India for a long time. I have played at the highest level in India and it was important to prove and test myself outside India,” he said. “I was really happy to leave for England. It was a great moment.”

Lack of professional infrastructure is the biggest impeding factor to the development of football in the region he told Penjore. “Good football development programs like tournaments for Under 13, 15, 16 and school tournaments have to be organised more often. More emphasis must be given to grassroots level, they should be exposed to international competitions from an early age and training of the highest standard should be provided. If we take these steps I feel we can achieve international status. There are lot of changes being made in the Indian football and within the next 10 years India will be among the best footballing nations in Asia,” he said.

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