Baichung Bhutia was a busy man on Thursday. He launched a fashion bar and then clicked to open the Football Players Association of India (FPAI) website in the company of Sunil Chetri, Gourmangi Singh and Mahesh Gawli.
He spoke on various subjects, ranging from the players’ role to federation’s responsibilities in promoting the game, and tired by the evening, rushed to join his other colleagues for a light training stint.
When launching the bar, Bhutia made it a point to make repeated references to the involvement of corporate houses. “We need to develop the game as a marketable product and that can come from more and more involvement of corporate houses and, of course, success on the field.”
He also reiterated the need to improve the infrastructure in the country. “It should improve drastically. “I feel sad to see big clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Dempo, not having their own grounds.
“How can you improve football without proper playing fields. We should do something about the infrastructure. It has not changed much from the time I started playing 17 years ago. It has got worse perhaps.”
He pointed out the example of Manchester United. “It has shown how to market and grow as a product,” he said. Bhutia, however, reminding the gathering that he was an Arsenal fan even though he rated Man-U a “top club” when it came to marketing. “I hope they (Man-U) don’t win the league this time,” he said in a lighter vein.
Later, the football icon launched the FPAI website ( www.fpaofindia.com) which he said was a “big step” forward in “educating” fellow players.
“The website will give a glimpse into the daily lives of our footballers even while keeping them abreast of the goings on in Indian football,” he added.
Bhutia was excited when he spoke about the website and the FPAI. “The website will carry all the latest news and interviews with leading players. It will also have a photo gallery, an event calendar and will be an interactive medium between Indian footballing stars and their fans.”
The website will comprise of a Q&A section where fans can post questions to any of the Indian team members. There will be a section for a guest corner and discussions too. “Not every one can become a Cristiano Ronaldo but then he can become a referee, a coach. We also want to help the players with the contract signings,” said Bhutia.
The Indian skipper has long been urging the All India Football Federation to address the issue of players’ contracts with clubs.
Chetri echoed his views on the contract issue too. “The FPAI can play a big role here. There are players who don’t even know what they are signing and that is where the clubs dictate. We have to make a start and I am happy Baichung has taken over the responsibility. It is all for the betterment of then game.” Chetri stressed.
Gawli also recalled the contract problems he had faced early in his career.
Speaking on the FPAI, which was formed in 2006, Bhutia said, “The FPAI was started for the development of Indian football and the welfare of football players and the website will be useful tool to bring together football players from all around the country into a close-knit family.”