Bhaichung Bhutia, a name synonymous with Indian football and an iconic figure in the world of international sports, recently shared his profound insights in a captivating conversation with Sunaina Jairath of CRED. Bhutia, often heralded as the ‘First Poster Boy of Indian Football,’ is celebrated for his exceptional contributions to the sport and has earned numerous accolades, including the prestigious Sikkim State Award, Arjuna Award, and the Padmashree Award.
Dialogue with a Football Legend
During his enlightening session on “Leading from the Front: A Roadmap for a Better Tomorrow,” Bhaichung Bhutia reminisced about his journey, going back to his debut days, when football was just another passion. In those times, most players held regular jobs to ensure financial security, but Bhutia had a different vision. He wanted to dedicate his life to the sport he loved, an aspiration that laid the foundation for the professionalisation of football in India. Reflecting on the transformation of football over the years, he proudly affirmed, “Today, all are professionals – a trend we set up,” underscoring the immense progress that Indian football has made, and added – “We can only go upwards. It looks good.”
Quest for World Cup Glory
What surfaced during the conversation, was the perennial question – when would India qualify for the FIFA World Cup? Bhutia’s optimism shone brightly as he expressed confidence in the future of Indian football. With an increasing number of teams in Asia having a genuine chance to qualify, he shared his belief, stating, “More than that, India needs to create a culture for sports. I’m sure we will see India in the World Cup in my generation.”
Parents’ Role in Fostering Sports
Shifting the focus to the pivotal role of parents in nurturing young talent, Bhaichung Bhutia acknowledged the changing landscape. Today, parents play a significant role in encouraging their children to pursue sports. This transition signals a promising era for Indian sports, where dedicated individuals can aspire to achieve greatness. He also commended the performance of women in Indian sports, emphasising that women athletes are outshining their male counterparts. In fact, he believed that the Indian Women’s Football Team might soon grace the World Cup stage!!
From the Football Field to the Dance Floor!
A delightful revelation during the conversation was Bhaichung Bhutia’s stunning victory in the dance reality show ‘Jhalak Dikhla Jaa.’ His journey from the football field to the dance floor captured the audience’s attention and highlighted the multifaceted talents of the football legend.
Building Winning Teams & Brand Sponsorship
Discussing the strategies for building successful teams, Bhutia underscored the critical roles of coaches and captains in player selection. He acknowledged the ongoing conversations around this topic and the focus on performance. His unwavering perspective on the importance of winning and its impact on people’s engagement with sports was evident.
When the conversation veered toward brand sponsorship in sports, Bhutia shed light on the potential for companies to build brand awareness through sports sponsorship. Sports provide brands with valuable media exposure, reaching new audiences and communicating the brand’s values. He highlighted women’s sports sponsorship as a prime example of this approach, emphasising the power of aligning a brand with the values of the sport.
Dealing with Failure & Building Resilience
Failure is an integral part of the sports experience, and Bhaichung Bhutia stressed the importance of developing the skills to recover from setbacks. What’s his strategy to deal with failure? That comes with experience, he observed and added – With sports you always have opportunities – if you lost, you learn and can rectify it! You always have to look forward. If you want to succeed, you need to make sacrifices was his insight.
So, experience teaches resilience.
Navigating the Media Landscape
Finally, about handling media during his playing days, Bhutia acknowledged the differences between his generation and the present. He explained that the current generation of players receives training and has professional managers. While he did not find it extremely challenging to deal with the media as a sportsperson, he recognised that today’s players have more structured support in this regard.
A Rapid fire Round was carried out and when he was asked – Reputation or success? His quick uptake was – Success comes but you need to be grounded. And his bucket st? “To see India in the international scenario and I will go as President of All India President Association!”
Bhaichung Bhutia’s insights, wisdom, and unwavering optimism for Indian football highlighted the immense potential for sports in India’s future. And, his vision and leadership continue to inspire generations of aspiring athletes and football enthusiasts alike.
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