| Dr Vece Paes takes a look at Bhaichung Bhutia’s leg after his cast was taken off on Tuesday. Bhaichung needs another four weeks’ rest. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Injured and unavailable as India captain, Bhaichung Bhutia dropped in at the SAI Eastern Centre Tuesday to wish his SAFF Cup comrades — who leave for Dhaka Wednesday — luck.
Bhutia had the plaster on his injured left leg removed and had a brief session with Dr. Vece Paes. He said he needed to rest for another four weeks before deciding on a return to competitive football. “I really feel sad for not being part of the Dhaka-bound team,” he said.
Stand-in captain Debjit Ghosh said the Dhaka meet would be challenging than the LG Cup in Ho Chi Minh City, which India won under Bhaichung. “Nothing short of winning the championship would do.”
“We are on the threshold of completing a title hattrick in SAFF Cup and our target will be the trophy,” Debjit said after the team’s practice.
Coach Stephen Constantine refused to rate his wards as favourites and reiterated that India would be up against the teams of “similar ability” in the January 10-20 meet.
“Don’t compare this meet with the LG Cup. The Vietnam meet was basically an age-group tournament while the tournament in Dhaka is an open one. Anybody can win,” Constantine warned.
The coach hinted that he would stick to his 3-5-2 formation and hoped veteran striker I.M. Vijayan would deliver. “Only in the midfield, I have a number of choices. But I can’t say anything for certain until I reach Dhaka,” he added.
Debjit, on the other hand, observed that the team would have been in better shape had they got another week’s time for practice. He added that the absence of Bhaichung, Dipak Mondal and Mahesh Gawli would be strongly felt.
“But then, you should not rue what is not there. This is the first time I have got a chance to lead the national team and I’ll try everything to finish the tournament on a high.”
Vijayan, meanwhile, plans to say goodbye to the international arena after SAFF Cup. The mercurial Keralite, now playing for JCT, added he wants to have a few more years at the club level.
He has been nominated for the Arjuna Award this year.