Time to groom Sunil Chhetri's successor, says Bhaichung Bhutia

Sajith B Warrier

Bengaluru, November 9: Former captain Bhaichung Bhutia is worried about the future of Indian football saying the team needs to look beyond talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri.

Bengaluru FC and national captain Chhetri, who is currently the second-highest international goalscorer among active players behind Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo, is already 35 and Bhutia thinks it is time to groom the next generation of players

"I'm a bit worried. Once Sunil (Chhetri) goes, we don't have someone to score even half of his goals. There's a vacuum. Defence is also a big worry," Bhutia said in Bengaluru during an event to announce a tie up between the Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools and public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

During his heydays, Bhutia, who was known as 'Sikkimese Sniper' had formed a lethal combination upfront with the likes of legendary I M Vijayan and Jo Paul Ancheri.

Towards the end of their playing career, Chhetri also came up and Bhutia apprehends that once Chhetri hangs up his boots, there will be big void in attack and defence which would not be easy to fill.

"When I was playing, there was Vijayan, Ancheri and then I came in, then Chhetri. There was quality across positions. Now I'm scared because there's significant gap between those who'll leave in the next few years and those who're coming in," he added.

A member of three SAFF Championship triumphs, Bhutia also shared national coach Igor Stimac's views that India should have had a preparatory camp ahead of the upcoming Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan and Oman.

"We need to give at least a week or so for the team to be together and play one or two friendlies".

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