National interest should come before club: Bhutia

February 17th, 2008 - 11:15 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) India’s football captain Bhaichung Bhutia Sunday said the national team’s performance alone can lift the popularity of the game in the country and obsession with club soccer would not help much in that direction. “We have to ensure that the public identifies with the national team to make the game big in India. The performance of the side is the key factor in the promotion of the game, not the fortunes of the individual clubs,” the star striker said here.

“If the national team does well, it will benefit everyone and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the state associations need to grasp this fact,” Bhutia said.

Coach Bob Houghton had also stressed that the performance of the national team was of paramount importance.

AIFF launched the I-League last year and Bhutia said it would take time for the League to take off in a big manner.

“As of now, it (I-League) seems to be same as the NFL (National Football League). But with time, there would be changes and clubs will have to conform with the guidelines decided by AIFF,” Bhutia said.

India will feature in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) championship as well as the AFC Challenge Cup to be contested by the second tier of Asian teams next season.

Winning the AFC Cup will give India a direct entry into the 2011 Asian Cup and Bhutia was of the view that the national side needs to prepare for the challenges ahead.

“It is very important to be prepared before the season starts. We had very good preparation last season with the trip to Portugal being very useful. The results were for everyone to see as we won the Nehru Cup,” he said.

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