Bhaichung Bhutia denies reports of falling out with the AIFF
What’s the story?
Indian footballing legend and former national team captain Bhaichung Bhutia has categorically squashed all rumours suggesting that he has had a fall-out with the All India Football Federation. The former East Bengal player, who was rumoured to be sacked from his role as an advisor to the AIFF, recently issued a statement to the PTI clarifying his stance.
The statement read, “I don’t know about being removed. My tenure got over at their last AGM. The advisor’s tenure lasts till the AGM. A new committee will now be formed to appoint the new advisor.”
Praful Patel, the president of the All India Football Federation had appointed the Sikkimese Sniper back in October 2015 in the aforementioned role, to help the governing body prepare smoothly for the FIFA U17 World Cup which is scheduled later this year and will be organised in India.
The heart of the matter
The entire furore was borne out of the fact that the AIFF went ahead and appointed Portuguese Luis Norton de Matos as a replacement for the outgoing Nicolai Adams, who was previously in charge of the Under 17 Indian team.
The Tinkitan Express was reportedly in favour of roping in Colm Toal, but the AIFF ignored his suggestions. This led to several sources suggesting that Bhutia was unhappy at being overruled and would quit his position at the earliest possible instance.
With preparations underway for the final stretch of the World Cup, it will be interesting to see how the AIFF handles the intricacies of organising such a massive event for the first time without the help of expert advice. Bhaichung had been critical in bringing back the British coach Stephen Constantine to the senior national team set-up, and also in extending his contract to February 2018.
While the team’s results have not improved dramatically, it goes without saying that there have been some consistent and positive changes and India’s current FIFA ranking of 130, their best over the past seven years or so reflects just that.
This is not the first time that Bhaichung Bhutia has been caught in a controversy regarding his choices, with several people blaming him for repeatedly influencing the AIFF’s decisions. It has also been alleged that the former East Bengal player has a say in deciding who gets a call to the national team and who doesn’t, and that the national body favours players who are represented by Bhutia’s agency.
However, with this step, the AIFF has gone some way to address these grievances and it will be interesting to see how they go about their way now.