Big worry because after Sunil Chhetri there is nobody: Bhaichung Bhutia

The last time India had a fearsome partnership was when Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri were playing together.

Published: 20th July 2020 03:18 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th July 2020 03:18 PM   |  A+A-

Indian striker Sunil Chhetri

Indian striker Sunil Chhetri (Photo | PTI)


NEW DELHI: A perennial problem in Indian football has been the lack of goal-machines. While there have been stars like I.M. Vijayan, Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri, there has never been a pool to pick from. The last time India had a fearsome partnership was when Bhutia and Chhetri were playing together. And Bhutia, the face of Indian football on the world map, believes it is a cause for concern.

Speaking to IANS, Bhutia not only threw light on the lack of a striker who can fill Chhetri's boots once he calls it a day, but also said that just like in Indian cricket, former players can come in to make a difference and help Indian football grow from the grassroot level.

Two names that immediately come to mind who could have formed a compact partnership with current skipper Chhetri in the front half are Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh. But both failed to create the impact expected of them and Bhutia feels injuries did play a role.

"It is a big worry because after Chhetri there is nobody else. It is very difficult to answer why they (strikers in Indian football) are losing their way. Consistency, I think, is very important. Jeje suffered lots of injuries and now his age (29) is also not in his favour. However, Jeje has done a good job. I think it's injury that is the main reason. Balwant also suffered because of injuries," the former India skipper said.

Bhutia goes on to add that the two didn't even get to play much due to their injury woes. "That is what I am saying, they didn't get to play because of their injuries. But then it's very difficult to say why they lost their ways. And I will say it is very important to be consistent," he said.

Does Bhutia feel that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) can have a role to play in helping produce strikers? The former striker feels there isn't much that AIFF can do in this regard at the top level.

"Federation can't do much. Clubs are paying the salaries and they would want to win trophies and they want players to perform. Since the clubs are paying the salary, federation cannot tell them you have to play this or that player. They cannot say unless they are willing to pay their salaries," he explained.

But creating a pool could definitely be an option feels Bhutia because all the clubs are facing this problem and there is set to be a dearth in a top-quality striker once Chhetri hangs his boots.

"Definitely, I think. Lack of strikers is a problem. It depends on the clubs because everyone is facing this problem. Yes, there will be (a dearth post Chhetri). It is a big worry because after Chhetri there is nobody else. We need to focus more on the strikers from the grassroot level. Special training program for strong attacking technic from the grassroot," he explained.

Asked if the AIFF can follow the footsteps of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and get former players to come into the system just like a Rahul Dravid (in charge of the NCA and the India U-19 team) or Sourav Ganguly (BCCI President), Bhutia said it could be an option for sure. "If capable they should, why not? It's not easy, it's difficult. But if they can do it, they should come forward," he signed off.


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp