Sports

Chhetri, Gurpreet must lead from front at Asian Cup: Bhutia

Agency | January 04, 2019 02:55 PM

KOLKATA:  Talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will have to play leading roles on and off the pitch, if India are to do well in the upcoming Asian Cup football tournament, feels former captain Bhaichung Bhutia.

India, who qualified for the Asian Football Confederation's flagship tournament after a gap of eight years, have in their ranks a lot of youngsters, complemented by the experience of Gurpreet and Chhetri. Both of them were part of the Doha Asian Cup back in 2011.

India, who lost all their matches back then and bowed out of the group stages, take on Thailand on January 6, before facing hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) on January 10, and Bahrain on January 14.

"Two persons will be very crucial -- Sunil Chhetri and Gurpreet Singh (Sandhu). Both have the experience of playing AFC. India have a young team and their guidance will be the key on and off the field," Bhutia told IANS over phone.

The 42-year old Sikkimese icon, who was the captain of the side in 2011, maintained that his former teammate Chhetri will have to take up the mantle of looking after not only his game but also his lesser experienced colleagues who might get overawed by the stage.

"Especially for Sunil, it's not about his own game but also guiding the players, keeping their focus off the ground and giving them confidence. He has to be the leader off the ground and see that they don't get carried away," Bhutia said.

Asked about India's chances in the competition, Bhutia pointed out that their first assignment against lower-ranked Thailand will make or break them.

"The first match is going to be very crucial. The match against Thailand is the most crucial game because if we can get three points (from that game), I genuinely feel we can go through to the second round. But if there is a defeat in the first match, then it looks difficult," he said.

"The morale and confidence will also be built from the first match. That's why the Thailand match will be crucial for them."

India coach Stephen Constantine had rued that his boys could not play more preparatory games leading up to the big ticket tournament. India have played China, Jordan and Oman in preparatory friendlies.

Bhutia, though, said India's build-up has been just fine and these are players who are raring to go at the big stage.

"Preparation has been good. This is a good bunch of players who have done well together and are raring to go. There should be fire in the belly to do well and I strongly feel the Thailand game is the key. We need to beat them at any cost," he said.

Meanwhile, The Baichung Bhutia Football School (BBFS) with its 50th centre recently announced an angel investment by the promoters of the CarWale & Chalo and Zomato.

"We got some people to come on board and take up the school in a bigger way and expand it in a bigger scale. In future, we also need to raise some more money to come into the company. We are looking to expand BBS pan India," Bhutia said on the association.

Have something to say? Post your comment
Must Read
World's largest Certification Authority ‘EC-Council’ confirms 33 LPU Students as ‘Certified Ethical Hackers’
World's largest Certification Authority ‘EC-Council’ confirms 33 LPU Students as ‘Certified Ethical Hackers’
CM mourns passing away of former Punjab Senior Bureaucrat Shivinder Singh Brar
CM mourns passing away of former Punjab Senior Bureaucrat Shivinder Singh Brar
DC leads hundreds of volunteers to pledge for further wiping out the curse of drugs from the Jalandhar
DC leads hundreds of volunteers to pledge for further wiping out the curse of drugs from the Jalandhar
‘Kesari' epitomizes never say die spirit of Sikhs
‘Kesari' epitomizes never say die spirit of Sikhs
On Martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Shanivar Shramdaan Mission started for clean Mansa campaign
On Martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Shanivar Shramdaan Mission started for clean Mansa campaign
Congress leaders led by MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary pay floral tributes to Martyr Bhagat Singh
Congress leaders led by MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary pay floral tributes to Martyr Bhagat Singh
Jalandhar Commissionerate Police busts an inter district narcotic smuggling gang with arrest of two smugglers
Jalandhar Commissionerate Police busts an inter district narcotic smuggling gang with arrest of two smugglers
Mansa all set to play host to grand Punjab State Games U-25 women from March 24 to March 27, DC
Mansa all set to play host to grand Punjab State Games U-25 women from March 24 to March 27, DC
Akali Dal rebel Gurtej Singh returns to party
Akali Dal rebel Gurtej Singh returns to party
SDM exhorts youths to exercise their franchise for stronger democracy
SDM exhorts youths to exercise their franchise for stronger democracy
District administration would organize two events to mark martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh
District administration would organize two events to mark martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh
MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary celebrates holi with grand “Pomp & Show” at his residence
MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary celebrates holi with grand “Pomp & Show” at his residence