GANGTOK: Football icon Bhaichung Bhutia has accused Sikkim Football Association President Menla Ethenpa of not supporting or nominating Bhutia’s candidature for the All India Football Federation Presidentship. The election for AIFF President is due on September 2, with Bhutia competing against former Mohan Bagan footballer Kalyan Chaubey for the coveted position.
However, Bhutia’s home state football association has extended support to Valanka Natasha Alemao from the Goa Football Association. The nomination was supported by Ethenpa. But the Goa football representative was not even shortlisted as the final two candidates. Bhutia was nominated by the football associations of Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Speaking to the media on Sunday from his residence, Bhutia stated, “I have come to know the reason why he has not extended support to me. It is because he is bargaining to be an executive member of AIFF. He wanted to be a treasurer with AIFF which is highly impossible for him. Menla and I are in the same team with the SFA representing Sikkim Football, but he is going against me and doing match fixing against me. Now the entire country knows why Sikkim football is lacking behind.”
Bhutia exclaimed that even other members of SFA and football associations from other states urged Menla to nominate Bhutia for the president position. “Menla Ethenpa didn’t agree despite their request. He ended up nominating a candidate who had not even asked him for his support. But I do not need Menla’s vote to win. It appears Ethenpa forgets that he is representing the entire Sikkim Football and not as an individual,” shared Bhutia.
He further accused Sikkim Krantikari Morcha party of pressurising Ethenpa to go against him in nomination. “There have been two or three individuals from SKM who seem to have pressured Ethenpa. I urge SKM as well as SFA to keep football away from politics,” he added,
Speaking about the Indian and Sikkim football financial situation, Bhutia stated, “AIFF receives around Rs 50 crore through the Indian Super League and another Rs 40-50 crore from the Government. For a state like Sikkim, we can give Rs 40-50 lakh annually, which can be devoted towards grassroots football development. We can hire and train many coaches, as in Sikkim players are more but very less coaches.”
Bhutia also accused Ethenpa of misappropriation of SFA funds devoted towards football promotion in Sikkim. “Once this election is over, I will initiate a third-party investigation upon Sikkim Football Association. Menla Ethenpa must abstain from voting and should also step down as the president of SFA. Ehtenpa has been President for two terms, he has been a working president for 8 years before that. Most of the members in SFA including him have been in the SFA for the past 30-40 years with only one or two new members being added.”
The former Indian captain also set out a few of the laws of sports associations in the country. He said, “No member can serve as president more than three terms. The committee must also represent players. There should be no other member from the same family in the association. But Ethenpa has his whole family involved”.
On Kalyan Chaubey, the other nominated candidate for the presidentship of AIFF, Bhutia stated, “Chaubey has played in clubs but not for the country. He was with Mohan Bagan in Kolkata but his nomination has come from Gujarat. He has been closely associated with the BJP. A politician can be both good and bad for football. But where he might fail is in terms of how he will aid football in states that have governments opposing the BJP. They will get affected. Even though I am a politician with Hamro Sikkim Party, if elected to the AIFF, I can continue being the face of the party but let another member lead the campaign. I can be an ordinary member too. But I won’t quit politics.”
On his candidacy, Bhutia asserted, “I think, I deserve the post more than Chaubey. I have represented India as a player. I have closely worked with FIFA in the past. I have also worked as a technical member of AIFF in the past, improving India’s rank from 170 to the top 100 countries. I think I will win the upcoming election.”
East Mojo approached Menla Ethenpa regarding Bhutia’s allegations, to which he said he will respond at an appropriate time.
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