5/30/2018 12:39:17 AM (GMT+3)

Bhutia, did you or Houghton ever think of creating a core Team India?

Bhutia, did you or Houghton ever think of creating a core Team India?

DOHA, Qatar: With due respect to your football credentials, it’s difficult to understand what you said at a get together in Mumbai…‘but still, we are far lucky than what we got in 2011. Compared to the last Asia Cup (appearance), we are happy and lucky’.

I couldn’t really understand what you actually wanted to convey to your fans and followers.

In the meanwhile, you also took a critic’s role by saying that Stephen Constantine’s rotating policy is not helping Team India.

Mr Bhutia you want to don multiple mantles and that becomes difficult to understand your motives. If football was your first love and priority, you wouldn’t have joined politics.

After you had quit football, you were clueless about your future. It wasn’t difficult to gauge your political ambition – Lok Sabha and then State Assembly elections.

Your dreams crashed while representing a leading Bengal party, but again you have started to dream and launched a new political party in your own state.

Those who’ve covered football during your career would say, ‘yes, he had in him to become a team leader’. No wonder, you dominated the Indian football in the last couple of years despite carrying injury.

Instead of criticising Stephen’s rotational philosophy, you should have credited his efforts. At least, he isn’t Bob Houghton, who only listened to you on team selection and then selected a bunch of injured players for the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha.

Mr Bhutia, a team’s ability or capability to do well in a competition depends a lot on multiple factors. But the main criteria is honesty and integrity besides hard work and passion laced with a sense of responsibility. That’s what Stephen had been doing in the last three odd years.

India’s campaign at the 2011 edition was a flawed one. Not because the team lacked talent or integrity, but it had at least half a dozen of injured and unfit players including you.

Your memory may have become slightly weak. So, let me help you to turn the clock back to 2009 when the preparation was in full swing for the Doha edition.

Injury had slowed you a down in your last few years, but you still hanged around. Houghton was your PR man, who would always say 1000 good things about your importance as a player and leadership qualities (you can read his quotes on the google).

India was clubbed with Australia, South Korea and Bahrain in Doha. But much before the tournament, Houghton probably knew the team had no chance to qualify beyond the group stage.

It’s not the question of who you play, but when you’ve a team full of injured and unfit players then the task becomes a little difficult. 

Houghton’s propaganda to create a ‘Team India’ for the Asian campaign in Doha never materialised. It was only a PR stunt and you had played an important role.

You struggled with a niggling knee injury and earned sympathy from the media. You wanted to quit football on a big stage. Don’t you agree, your selfish motives hadn’t done anything good to the team then?

Renedy Singh’s left foot was good, but weren’t strong enough to win the trophy as he too struggled to stay fit.

Now you’re talking about a core group. Did you or Houghton think about it seven or eight years ago?

A second team should have been in place after Houghton took over in June, 2006. However, some of the juniors and senior players who had performed well in the domestic competitions were excluded from the Doha-bound squad.

Shanmugam Venkatesh, who was also in his 30s like you, was one of the finest attacking midfielders. He did well with Pune FC, but didn’t get a chance. Striker Mohammad Rafi, who was in thick of goals, or Ishfaque Ahmed was omitted.

Do you still think an ineffective Sushil Singh deserved a place in the Asian Cup team and, that too as your replacement?

What still remained a mystery was the way Houghton handled the team as he banked on you and other unfit players.

You had wanted to end your career on a global platform. Once again, a personal ambition at the cost of Team India. You had even convinced AIFF, media and Houghton that Asian Cup was important for you.

I admire your patriotism. But Mr Bhutia was it morally correct to block a place for some, who were fit and deserved to play for the country?

At the beautiful Al Sadd Stadium on a lovely winter afternoon in Doha, you didn’t even play. From the dugout, you backed up your team-mates, who were beaten by the sheer pace of the Aussies. We lost 4-0.

If you were to cheer for your team, you could’ve travelled on your own. 

In the second match against Bahrain, you were once again at the dugout. You weren’t fit to be in the team, but nobody had the gut to say anything against you because you were a ‘leader’.

In Doha, Houghton was tight-lipped on the team’s fitness and blamed the Indian conditions for spoiling the career of Indian players. Barring goalkeeper Subrata Paul, Sunil Chhetri and Syed Rahim Nabi, most of the first XI players including you were unfit.  

Oh yes, that 15-minute ‘special appearance’ against the South Koreans on a rain-hit evening at Al Gharafa Stadium was a memorable one for you, but definitely not for Indian football. (footballwallah.blogspot.com)