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Footballers hit by Bhutia scare

Bhaichung Bhutia says he will be practicing in a couple of days, recovering as he is from a thigh injury.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 00:56 IST

Bhaichung Bhutia says he will be practicing in a couple of days, recovering as he is from a thigh injury. But watching the football star limping across the field at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Friday, it was difficult to believe he could play in the next few days.

Bhutia would be the last man to admit this. The Indian captain values his team jersey too much to stay out of an important match like the Asian Cup qualifier against Japan. That too, when the team is already without several of its top players.

Alvito D'Cunha, Climax Lawrance, Samir Naik are all out with injuries. International player and one of our best midfielder Shanmugam Venkatesh also pulled out, after reporting for the camp here. On Friday, defender M Suresh was also seen with a bandage after straining his left thigh.

But his injury speaks otherwise. "I will be practicing after one or two days," he said. SAI doctor PSM Chan dran has said his injury is 90 per cent healed, but he needs to avoid practice for another few days. But there is no denying the fact that, coming straight as they are from the National Football League (NFL), most of the players are far from their peak fitness. "We need to work out the schedule such that there is sufficient recovery period for the players. India still has a long way to go in that regard," admitted Bhutia.

Meanwhile, on field, coach Syed Nayeemuddin was busy making sure there was no let up in the intensity of the practice. He cannot afford to, either, since India would be going into the crucial match against Japan with no match practice, except one against Hong Kong on February 18, en route to Japan.

The Sudan team pulled earlier, and then a hurriedly cobbled up side of foreign players in Indian clubs also failed to materialise, with Mahindra United refusing to release their players.

"Ideally, we should have some practice matches before an important game, but let's see. We may play some matches here against local sides, but again, it's all up to the coach," said a smiling Bhutia, who suffered the injury during a match against JCT in the recent NFL. The team is likely to leave for Hong Kong on February 16.

First Published: Feb 12, 2006 22:35 IST