Bhutia eagerly waiting to meet Pele on January 23
Kolkata: Indian football icon Baichung Bhutia might have had many highs during his illustrious career, but he confessed on Friday that his ultimate dream would come true on January 23 when he gets a chance to play with Pele.
Pele, the legendary Brazilian, would return to the home of Indian football for an exhibition match with a galaxy of international stars.
The match in India will happen 13 days after Bhutia officially retires from international football by leading the country in an exhibition match against Bayern Munich in New Delhi and the Sikkimese star said he was really fortunate.
"When I grew up playing football in my village, I knew only of Pele. So, obviously it will be a lifetime achievement to play with him. I am really looking forward to shake hands with him," Bhutia told reporters, announcing the exhibition friendly.
The coming trip would be 71-year-old Pele`s second visit to the football-crazy city. He will be here as an ambassador of the Superstars XI led by compatriot and two-time World Cup winner Cafu.
The Superstars XI will take on Indian Dream XI in the exhibition tie.
"It would be really a competitive match. It`s a dream Indian team and I am really looking forward to playing with the likes of I M Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri. Hopefully, we will get a fit Sunil Chhetri. And we will play to win so that we can proudly say that we have beaten the world`s `best team`," Bhutia said.
Bhutia also revealed plans to rope in former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly for the match if he is available and also add a bit of glamour quotient with the inclusion of a couple of Bollywood and Tollywood celebrities.
"We know his (Ganguly`s) love for football. It would be really nice to have him alongside Mahendra Singh Dhoni if they are available. There will also be a few Bollywood stars whose names would be revealed later. But the main aim is to make a competitive team as we want to win."
Pele would be the ambassador of the Superstars XI, which will also have Roberto Carlos and Ruud Gullit as its coach.
The players of Superstars XI will arrive here on January 21 and conduct a football clinic besides other promotional events.
It`s part of a world tour of 20 countries where Pele and Co would play similar exhibition matches beginning with Nepal.
"The biggest impact of the event will be that it will generate huge interest and secondly it`s happening for a cause. The proceeds will go to FPAI fund which will help the country`s needy footballers," Bhutia said.
Bhutia also credited Delhi-based firm JPR Events for organising the show.
The organisers said that they were also trying to bring Brazilian stalwart duo of Ronaldinho and Ronaldo and Italian star Roberto Baggio, but the trio were yet to confirm.
"The rest of the stars including Pele and Cafu have confirmed. Pele will be travelling with the team. Also an honorary ambassador of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, it would be an opportunity to promote the extravaganza here," CEO of JPR Events, Sunil Hamal said.
The match will be of full 90-minute duration and the kick-off time is at 2pm, the organisers said.
From India, the world team would travel to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Indonesia among other countries during the tour.
Bhutia said the All India Football Federation was not directly involved in the match, but the national body would be invited for the friendly tie.
The tickets will be available from Sunday at different outlets and stadia of the city in the denominations of Rs 300 and 500.
The organisers would distribute VIP tickets to the I-League players while country`s stalwarts would be given VVIP passes for the match.
Way back on September 22, 1977, Pele fever had gripped the city as he drew more than 80,000 fans at the Eden Gardens for an exhibition match against Mohun Bagan.
After Pele, Kolkata`s tryst with the legends continued as it later hosted German World Cup winning captain Lothar Matthaus, legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, Argentine great Diego Maradona and the latest being iconic Lionel Messi in September last year.
Superstars XI: Cafu (capt), Pele, Regi Blinker, Roberto Carlos, Zola, Denilson, Pierre van Hooijdonk, Angsker Birkman, Winston Bogarde, Christian Karaembu, Roland Kopp, Ronald De Boer, Marcel Oerlemans, Rudolf Schenker. Coach: Ruud Gullit.