New Delhi: In these unprecedented times, former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia is playing the ‘Good Samaritan’. In fact he is doing a better job than the way he played top-flight football.
Bhaichung Bhutia has opened the doors of his academy to shelter migrant workers. Now he is trying to help his own people stranded in other states due to the coronavirus-forced lockdown.
“We are trying to help the people stuck in cities like Delhi, Chennai and all other places with ration and essential items. We are using our contacts across the country to reach out to those in distress,” Bhutia said Wednesday. “I had set up a helpline and the number belongs to United Sikkim Football Club’s manager,” Bhutia added.
Football without spectators
Bhutia said he supports the resumption of sport without spectators when the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic improves. This is because of the ‘scope and reach of television and digital platforms’.
“When the situation improves a little, football can start. We all know the reach of television and digital platforms these days. By having all precautions in place, I think this can be tried out,” Bhutia informed.
“They are working on ways to restart the leagues in Europe without crowds initially. I know it will not be great for the players playing in front of empty stands. But television and social media platforms will take care of spectator part. One will have to be aware of the financial aspects concerned if the game does not start,” asserted Bhutia.
Sikkim very lucky
Sikkim remains coronavirus-free and Bhutia feels a combination of factors helped the state.
“One thing is that the people of Sikkim are law-abiding citizens. They also give a lot of importance to hygiene and health,” the 43-year-old said. “And then, the timing of the outbreak may have helped. Because it was still winter there were less tourists. If the outbreak had happened in April-May instead of January-February, it may have been different,” said Bhutia.
“Just imagine 10 lakhs tourists getting stuck in Sikkim. It would have been very difficult then as we would have struggled with infrastructure,” the former Indian captain added.
FIFA campaign on coronavirus
Bhutia has been part of FIFA and Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) campaigns on the COVID-19 pandemic. He said these initiatives by those playing the world’s biggest sport do help.
“Football is a global sport and when you have world icons like (Diego) Maradona, Pele and (David) Beckham involved, it does play a positive role,” Bhutia pointed out.
“See, when you talk of football icons they are not just restricted to their own countries. These icons are known and loved across the world. It is not like a Hollywood actor or a politician,” he added.