Bhaichung Bhutia
Bhaichung Bhutia|File photo (AIFF)

Young Indian footballers should ply their trade in foreign clubs, says Bhaichung Bhutia

By Harpal Singh Bedi/NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, August 8, 2020

Former national team captain Bhaichung Bhutia says that young Indian players should make efforts to showcase their talent abroad by playing for foreign clubs.

He said the young professionals should ply their trade abroad while admitting that playing overseas is a “gamble” which they should take.

"I would suggest young Indian players to take a gamble and play for a club abroad. You will need to make sacrifices and it may not pay as well as what a top player in India earns. However, once you reach the age of 25-26 years then you can look into the financial aspect," said Bhaichung, the first Indian player to play over 100 international matches.

"I agree with what Venkatesh said (in an earlier chat with AIFF TV). Our players don't have to play in the top European leagues. They can play in Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea, Qatar, UAE or countries like Belgium, for example," the former captain told AIFF TV.

The striker who has been inducted in the AFC Hall of Fame highlighted how playing abroad helped him improve as a player, and made him understand “what professional football is all about.”

During his career, Bhaichung spent three years with English club Bury FC, and later went on to have two stints in Malaysia -- with Perak FA and then Selangor MK Land.

"Playing abroad teaches you a lot. If not technical-wise, it certainly gives you an idea of what professional football is all about, and how the business of football works. As a player, you improve and learn. My experience with Bury FC was really good. It definitely made me aware of the kind of player I am and helped me improve myself," he said.

Bhaichung cited the example of Gurpreet Sandhu, who spent three years with Norwegian club Stabaek FC -- where he became the first Indian to play in the UEFA Europa League. He returned to India in 2017 -- at the age of 25 -- signing for Bengaluru FC, and he termed Gurpreet's decision as a “good gamble.”

"Gurpreet is a good example. He had done really well playing in Norway and made great strides -- even featuring in the Europa League. These clubs may not pay as well but it is a sacrifice you have to make. Gurpreet took the call to come back to India as they (Stabaek FC) weren't paying him the amount that he would receive here (in India)," he added.