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Dibyojyoti Baksi, Hindustan Times
Darjeeling, April 11, 2014
The former captain of India’s football team, Baichung Bhutia, may have retired from the sport, but his interest in promoting the game is intact. In fact, now that he is ­contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha election on a  Trinamool Congress ticket from Darjeeling, he says he will use his new position to promote the game, but ­development of his ­constituency will be his first priority. (Excerpts from an interview.)

How do you plan to use your experience as a sportsperson in the field of politics?

I want to apply all that I have learnt from football, in ­politics. My career taught me the importance of sincerity, hard work, dedication and honesty, and that’s what I want to bring into politics.

Football is big in West Bengal. Do you plan to promote the sport further?

Absolutely; before I got into politics, and even after my retirement, I was constantly involved in the sport. There are 15 Baichung Bhutia Football Schools ­running at the grassroots. I also started the United Sikkim Football Club, and, in a year-and-a-half, it became the top football club in India. Now that I’ve entered politics, I will push it further. I will try, in whatever way possible, to make the sport much ­bigger.

Are you going to own a football team as well?

I have associated myself with a consortium to bid for one. Right now, it’s at a very early stage.

Baichung Bhutia addresses a gathering of Lepcha tribal communities at the Mela Ground in Kalimpong on Thursday. (Somshuvra Laha/HT)

Bollywood stars such as Ranbir Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan have regularly promoted your football schools. Do you plan to take such associations forward?

Ranbir has helped us a lot by becoming the goodwill ambassador, and Abhishek has also helped the club in some way or the other. Rahul Bose, too, has played a match in Sikkim. There has always been great support from Bollywood, and I am thankful to them for that.

If you are elected, what is the first thing you are going to do?

I am going to bring development and peace to the hills.

Baichung Bhutia addresses a gathering of Lepcha tribal communities at the Mela Ground in Kalimpong on Thursday. (Somshuvra Laha/HT)