Baichung returning to full fitness

Updated: Oct 30, 2010, 17:27 PM IST

New Delhi: Indian football team captain Baichung Bhutia on Saturday said he is returning to the full fitness and hoping to get back into the groove once the Indian team embarks on their trip to Dubai.

The team will be leaving for Dubai on Sunday for a training-cum-practice tour as a part of their preparation for the Asian Cup to be held in January in Doha.

"I am feeling a lot better now. But it will still take some more time to regain full match fitness. It is always tough to come back from injury. Once you are back from injury it takes a bit more time to come at par with the other members of the team.

"But I am feeling that I am getting back into shape," Baichung said on the sidelines of launch of Baichung Bhutia Football School in association with Carlos Queiroz Academy, based in Portugal.

Asked about Indian`s chances in the Asian Cup, Baichung said, "We have been preparing well under coach Bob Houghton and we expect by the time the tour starts we will be suitably prepared to take on the likes of South Korea, Australia and Bahrain."

The ace footballer also hoped that India under-23 team that will be taking part in Asian Games in Guangzhou will also do well under the guidance of Sukhwinder Singh.

"It will be a great experience for Under-23 lads, some of whom are already playing for the senior team. Although, the performance in Asian Games does not enhance FIFA ranking but it will still be a fantastic experience to play against quality teams like Qatar.

"There are some quality players in our team like Baljit Singh Sahni, Mohan Raj and Sushil Singh and I expect them to do well," said Baichung.

The 33-year-old footballer, who has served the country with distinction for nearly two decades, also feels Sushil, Baljit and Mohd Rafi are some of the players, who would carry the baton for him in international football in the near future.

"Sunil (Chettri) is already an established player and the best Indian striker but this did not happen in a few weeks or months. It has taken him a lot of matches.

"He also needed a lot of exposure. And if Rafi, Baljit and Sushil also get the same amount of exposure as Sunil got, they can also establish themselves at the international stage," Baichung said.

Meanwhile, talking about his new project - the football school, Baichung said, "It will be a `pay and play` scheme but 20-30 per cent reservation will be for the under-privileged kids, who have the talent."

Baichung also have plans to launch similar schools in places like Mumbai, Kolkata and Siliguri.

The Indian captain said the tie-up with Carlos Queiroz Football Academy will give necessary state-of-the-art training for football-loving kids in the country.

Queiroz, who was Portugal`s coach in World Cup and was known for managing Real Madrid team, could not be present at the launch today but his representative read out a statement that said, "the tie-up would usher a new era for Indian football."

PTI