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.
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.