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'Chances of playing Asian Cup 50:50'

sports Updated: Dec 24, 2010 22:40 IST
HT Correspondent

Battling a right calf injury, India captain Bhaichung Bhutia rated his chances of playing the Asian Cup finals as 50:50.

Talking to HT from Dubai where the India squad has been training since early November, Bhutia said he is trying to get his orthopaedic, Dr Kannan Pugazendhi, to fly out from Chennai and join him.

Bhutia said he can't train with the ball but has been doing a lot of cycling. "I am just following my daily routine and hoping for the best.

It'll be incredibly disappointing to miss out on the Asian Cup finals. I don't think I will ever get a chance to play a tournament bigger than this," Bhutia, 34, said.

India have qualified for the finals of the Asian Cup, to be held in Doha next month, after 27 years and are grouped with Australia, South Korea and

Bahrain. They open against Australia on January 10.

Goalie Arindam Bhattacharya too isn't training but the count of fit players at the camp is improving with Sunil Chhetri and Sameer Naik taking part in Friday's session, Bhutia said. Naik and Bhutia had recently gone to Chennai for rehabilitation at Dr Pugazendhi's clinic.

Likely for 2nd division
Bhutia also said he has sought permission for United Sikkim Football Club to play this season's I-League second division. Bhutia said he set up the club two years ago with friends in Gangtok and it finished second in the local league last year.

An AIFF official said following a cursory examination, the club's documents seemed in order. That could mean Bhutia will play in the I-League 2 this season. "If the AIFF allows us to take part, I will most likely play for United Sikkim," Bhutia said.

"It will give I-League 2, scheduled for a February 2011 start, a shot in the arm.

The AIFF will do the final scrutiny next week before sending the applications to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in Kuala Lumpur.

Following an AFC directive, each club needs to fulfil 17 broad criteria by December 31, 2010, to be eligible for I-League. For the top tier, the criteria need to be fulfilled for participation in 2011-12. But aspiring second division clubs need to have ticked all the boxes for this season.

"I can assure you that in five years, we will have the best infrastructure among all football clubs in the country," Bhutia said.

Bhutia already has a stadium in Namchi, Sikkim, named after him. Now he could play for a club he helped set up.