Former India football team skipper and All India Football Federation (AIFF) Advisor, Bhaichung Bhutia, on Thursday, was named Talent Director of the Premier Futsal. However, the Indian football body, which does not recognise the tournament, said that the celebrated striker has decided against associating himself with the event.
“Premier Futsal League has emerged as a category-defining offering in the Indian sporting landscape...It is a great honour for me to be a part of such a tournament,” Bhutia said in a statement which was part of the release sent by the organisers of the event on Tuesday afternoon.
“It is a matter of great pride and honour for us to have a personality of Bhaichung’s stature to be a part of Premier Futsal...We welcome Bhaichung to the Premier Futsal family and look forward to a successful association with him,” Managing Director of Premier Futsal Dinesh Raj said in a statement.
The AIFF, though, claim to have spoken with Bhutia and convinced him to not join the programme. “He is not joining,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das told The Field. “The president and I have both spoken to him and have convinced him to not go through with it.”
“We told him he was an icon of Indian football and we want him to remain focused on Indian football,” he added.
The Field tried contacting Bhutia for comments, but he was unavailable. Organisers of the tournament however, clarified that talks with Bhutia were still ongoing, despite confirming his arrival in the press release earlier.
“We are still discussing the matter with Mr Bhaichung Bhutia,” Nityashree Subban, senior official Premier Futsal told The Field, after AIFF’s intervention.
Earlier this year, the former India striker was said to be peeved at the AIFF after his Colm Toal, his choice for the coach of under-17 team was not appointed. His contract as advisor in the football body was renewed earlier this year following many deliberations.
The national football body has plans of launching its own futsal event and has even notified the Asian Football Council of their plans.
Premier Futsal was held in September last year for the first time as a three-week event . It is a variation of football and played indoors.
The event is endorsed by football legend Luis Figo. Stalwarts such as Ronaldinho and Ryan Giggs were part of the league in 2016. The Brazilian star is expected to play a major role in the upcoming season as well.