New Delhi: Indian football coach Savio Medeira on Sunday hailed former captain Baichung Bhutia for the services he has rendered to the country, saying it will take a long time to find a player of his stature.
Baichung was the posterboy of Indian football from the time he made his international debut in 1995 till he retired last year during which he captained the side for more than 10 years.
Medeira said he was happy that Baichung would play his farewell match against a top European side Bayern Munich at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday.
"Services Baichung has given to the country for the game cannot be compared with anybody. I am happy that he is playing his farewell match against such a good team like Bayern Munich. He deserves a farewell like this. No other team would have been fitting for a player of his stature," Medeira said.
"It will also be difficult to find a replacement of Baichung as a striker. Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri are doing well but they have a long way to go," he told reporters ahead of the match between the Indian national team, to be led by Baichung, and German top side Bayern Munich.
Medeira even went a step further in praise of Baichung, saying that he should join the All India Football Federation to bring changes in the game in the country.
"If Baichung is in the AIFF, lots of things will change. He has the stature and he will be able to carry forward Indian football ahead," he said.
The coach was candid that the Indian side under him will be rank outsiders against a Bayern side which will field their first team in the match.
"The match will be one of the most high-profile one played by the national team. But you cannot compare India with Bayern in any sense. The match will not help the Indian team in any way. But it is a lifetime opportunity for the players to rub shoulders with some of the best players and against one of the best sides. They will learn from the match," he said.
"The players are eager to play against Bayern. We have prepared well and hoping to do well. We will give our best," said Medeira.
India will take part in the AFC Challenge Cup in Nepal in March; a tournament whose winners will qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia, and Medeira said his side will play a few international friendlies next month as part of preparations.
"We will play a few international matches before the AFC Challenge Cup and the national camp will be held either in Dubai or London," he said.
"The 23 players with me will not be the final squad for the AFC Challenge Cup. I am going to add and chop some players. I have to look for Mahesh Gawli`s replacement in the central defence though the pool of quality players are limited," he said.
Medeira was also not in favour of the current system of having four foreigners in an I-League team on the ground that it has reduced the number of quality Indian strikers.
"Four foreigners are allowed in an I-League team and most of them of strikers. Where is the place for Indian strikers. My personal view is that there should be only three foreigners in an I-League side."