| Coach Bob Houghton and Bhaichung Bhutia during practice at SAI on Monday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: Bhaichung Bhutia joined the national camp on Monday and, within hours, clarified that he hadn’t said he was quitting international football.
“I didn’t say I want to retire, all I said was that I was thinking of retiring, which is not the same,” Bhaichung told the media after an hour-and-a-half’s practice session at the SAI in the afternoon.
Asked why he decided to join the camp for the August 16 AFC Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia, Bhaichung said: “I had spoken to Mr Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and yesterday (Sunday) I spoke to my coach (Bob Houghton) before taking the decision to join the camp and play the match against Saudi Arabia.”
Bhaichung added that his discussion with Houghton was a significant one. “Previously I was lacking motivation, but after speaking to the coach I thought I needed to play for the country. Now, I am fully motivated. When you play, you should learn something and I am going to do that under Bob,” explained the star striker.
He enjoyed his maiden session at the SAI camp. “I like the coach’s long-term planning and the practice regime he is making us follow is very hard but effective. It’s important for a coach to adapt to all conditions, which Bob is quite capable of,” Bhaichung remarked.
Reverting to the August 16 engagement, Bhaichung felt it will be a tough task for the Indians. “Saudi Arabia are a tremendous side, though they had some tough luck in the World Cup.”
Bhaichung said if the coach was given the right combination, Houghton can make a lot of difference. “He is a very experienced customer. Two years from now, the team will look different,” Bhaichung observed.
Bhaichung agree that there is none to fill in for him in the striking department. “Sushil Singh is the most promising striker right now… Then there are players like Manjit Singh, Sunil Chhetri and Syed Rahim Nabi. We need a fighter like Sushil in the camp, and I’m sure the coach is aware of it.”
Bhaichung agreed with Houghton on the subject of bringing in foreign players of Indian origin. “I have seen Michael Chopra play and it’ll be great if he plays for the Indian squad. But I don’t think he is going to come.”