Indian soccer captain Baichung Bhutia celebrates after scoring. Bhutia was the first Indian to play professional football in Europe. (AP Photo)
Doha, January 16 (PTI): The influence of iconic cricketer Sachin Tendulkar transcends any sport in India and national football captain Bhaichung Bhutia says he draws inspiration from him to bring laurels for the country.
India coach Bob Houghton had compared Bhutia with Tendulkar for the influence both the players have in their respective national teams.
Bhutia described Tendulkar as the legendary sportsperson whose influence goes much beyond cricket. “I have met him once or twice and obviously he is a sporting legend. He is the sole example of a role model sportsperson in India. He inspires a senior footballer like me to bring laurels for the country,” Bhutia told PTI after their training session ahead of India’s last group match against South Korea in the Asian Cup here. Bhutia said it was difficult to compare between a footballer and cricketer in India but said the amount of time they have played for the country and the service they have rendered could be similar. “Sachin is different from me. Football is totally different from cricket. The amount of time we two have played for the country and the amount of the service we two have given could be compared,” he said. “Me, Leander Paes, Sachin, Dhanraj Pillay, we played for the country for quite long and can be compared in that sense. But football is completely different from cricket,” he added. Houghton had told a press conference before India’s second group match against Bahrain on Friday that Bhutia has an influence on the national football side just like Tendulkar has on the cricket team.
“The best cricketer in the world is in India. Tendulkar is a very fine role model, a fine person. Comparison with Bhaichung is similar. They are of the same age, they keep going. Bhutia is a major influence on the team on and off the field. He is a leader,” Houghton had said. Bhutia was the first Indian to play professional football in Europe in the post-independence era when he spent three years with English Championships side Bury FC between 1999 and 2002.
34-year-old Bhaichung has played 104 international matches for India since 1995 and he is the record goalscorer for the country. Tendulkar, 37, is the leading runs scorer and century maker in both Test and one—day international cricket.Tendulkar, who made his debut in 1989 at an age of 16, is widely considered as the greatest batsman of the modern era.