File image of Bhaichung Bhutia (TOI Photo)
NEW DELHI: Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia has stressed that Indian players need to ply their trade abroad, suggesting to young professionals that playing overseas is a “gamble” which they should take.
In a live chat with AIFF TV, Bhutia said: “I would suggest young players in India 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.
“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,” Bhutia stated.
During his illustrious career, Bhutia spent three years with English club Bury FC and later went on to have two stints in Malaysia — with Perak FA and Selangor MK Land, respectively.
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”.
“Playing abroad teaches you a lot. If not technique-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 explained.
Bhutia cited the example of Gurpreet Singh 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, and signed for Bengaluru FC.
Bhutia said Gurpreet’s decision was 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),” Bhutia quipped.