Bhutia to play with Cannavaro in Laureus Football Challenge

Abu Dhabi: Bhaichung Bhutia will rub shoulders with legends such as Italy’s World Cup winning skipper Fabio Cannavaro and former Portuguese mid-fielder Luis Figo during a seven-a-side Laureus Football Challenge during which the Indian’s team will have the legendary Sir Bobby Charlton as manager.

The one-hour contest, each half of 30 minutes, will feature some of the top yesteryear footballers with the second team in fray to be managed by former Iraq coach Bora Milutinovic, who would have the legendary Franz Beckenbauer as his assistant.

Charlton, England’s only World Cup winning captain, will be managing the team featuring Bhutia and asked about the players in his squad, he said, “I feel extremely confident about winning on Monday’s match because the players that I have play for the love of the game. They are passionate about the sport.”

The other footballers, who would be seen in action on Monday include Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke, who would play for Charlton’s team, and Figo, set to turn out for Milutinovic’s side.

Watching from the sidelines would be former tennis ace and football enthusiast Boris Becker along with several members of the Laureus Academy who are here for its annual sports awards to be presented on Monday night.

Charlton, who was part of England’s failed bid for hosting the 2018 World Cup, was still bitter about losing it to Russia and did not quite agree with FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

“That’s a sensitive issue. There are harsh weather conditions in Qatar at that time and the neutrals are quite surprised that they won the bid. I can’t say I am very happy about the decision but (FIFA President) Sepp Blatter is a powerful man and he is surrounded by powerful people and we have to abide by what they decide,” he said.

Becker too felt that extreme heat in Qatar could make the regular June-July schedule difficult to adhere for the organisers.

“If I am asked to play tennis at that time of the year there, I won’t do it but I guess solutions are being worked out,” he said.


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