Kolkata: Bhaichung Bhutia, one of India`s legends in football and aptly described by former striker I.M Vijayan as `God`s gift to Indian football`, has taken over as a player-manager of I-League club United Sikkim FC with Philippe de Ridder being elevated to the post of football director. Bhutia owns a stake in the club along with singer Shankar Mahadevan and Anglican Holdings.
The decision to take over as player-manager comes after Prayag United decimated United Sikkim 10-1 in what was the first match for new Prayag coach Eelco Schattorie.
"I`ll be coaching the team on a temporary basis till we get a suitable candidate. It`s a challenge and, at the same time, a risk," said Bhaichung to a leading newspaper ahead of his team`s practice session at Kolkata. Bhutia`s first game in charge will be against his former club East Bengal at the City of Joy.
"Sometimes things just happen and situations call for a different reaction and different perspective. As a team, we are going through a difficult phase. So I have stepped up to take it as a challenge," said the former India captain.
The former Bury FC player was optimistic of his side`s ability to bounce back from their heavy defeat against Prayag United. "The 1-10 result is not normal. It may influence a team in two ways. It will either destroy you or motivate you for a revival. I believe I`m professional enough to understand the situation and turn things around," stated Bhutia.
I-League clubs require to fulfill Asian Football Confederation (AFC) criteria of having a AFC A-level licensed coach in charge of the team. Bhutia ruled out coaching a team on a full-time basis for now. "I may go for a coaching license in the future, but it`s a distant dream. I have taken this risk with United Sikkim because it`s my team. But had it been for clubs like Mohun Bagan or East Bengal, I wouldn`t have done so. I don`t think I`m ready to coach big teams or the national team," said the Padma Shri winner.
Bhutia reiterated that his new role will not dilute his earlier responsibilities as a player for United Sikkim. "I`m registered as an I-League player. I`m yet to regain cent per cent fitness but if the team needs me, I`ll play," said Bhaichung.
When asked what he plans to do after he finally hangs up his boots for good, Bhaichung replied "I don`t know. I`ve never thought that I would own an I-League team. Neither did I think that I would coach a team one day. Life is full of surprises and you have to be prepared for whatever examination you are being thrust into,"
I retired three years ago but I am still training with Arsenal because I have a good relation with the club and Arsene Wenger. So it's been easy to come out of retirement.