Former India captain and AIFF presidential candidate Bhaichung Bhutia on Sunday alleged that political pressure has led to his home state body Sikkim FA not supporting him in the upcoming general body elections.
The 45-year-old Bhutia, one of the biggest legends in Indian football, is set for a straight fight for the AIFF president’s post in the September 2 polls.
His opponent is former Mohun Bagan and East Bengal goalkeeper Kalyan Chaubey, who is believed to be the front-runner with backing from politically important state associations like Gujarat and Arunachal Pradesh.
Chaubey is a BJP leader in Bengal.
Bhutia’s nomination was proposed and seconded by Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan state associations. He did not get support from his home state association.
Bhutia, known as ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ during his playing days for his goal-scoring prowess, alleged meddling from some ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) party leaders by way of pressurising Sikkim FA President Menla Ethenpa to vote against him.
“I suggest that the few SKM party leaders trying to intefere into the elections to back off. They have persuaded the SFA president to vote against me when he should be requested to abstain,” he said at a press conference here.
“I really don’t want his (Ethenpa’s) vote but direct meddling by political figures will hamper the development of football in the state and the country as a whole,” a furious former national captain added.
“The president (Menla Ethenpa) will represent SFA in the elections, not himself. If he sincerely wants football to survive, then he should represent what is right.” Bhutia also said that it’s time for Ethenpa to step down from his post which he has held for the past 16 years, if he wants to see football grow in Sikkim.
He also alleged that Ethenpa, who is a retired bureaucrat, has failed to do the job entrusted on him and was running the association like his own.
He levelled allegation of “corruption” and “misappropriation” of funds within the SFA.
“After the AIFF presedential elections, I will move court seeking a third party investigation into the accounts of SFA,” said the legendary footballer, who retired in 2011 after becoming the first Indian to play 100 full internationals for the country.
Bhutia added that Ethenpa’s many family members are in the executive body of the state association which he said is a violation of laws governing sports in the country.
“We have to change the corrupt practices within the SFA and bring in the right people if we want to flourish as a good footballing state. We will go to court in this matter,” he said.