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The 35-year old former India striker has announced himself as a player-manager for United Sikkim replacing Belgian Philippe de Ridder at the helm....

Bhaichung Bhutia, one of India's legends in football and aptly described by former striker I.M Vijayan as 'God's gift to Indian football', has taken over as a player-manager of I-League club United Sikkim FC with Philippe de Ridder being elevated to the post of football director. Bhutia owns a stake in the club along with singer Shankar Mahadevan and Anglican Holdings.

The decision to take over as player-manager comes after Prayag United decimated United Sikkim 10-1 in what was the first match for new Prayag coach Eelco Schattorie.

"I'll be coaching the team on a temporary basis till we get a suitable candidate. It's a challenge and, at the same time, a risk," said Bhaichung to The Times of India ahead of his team's practice session at Kolkata. Bhutia's first game in charge will be against his former club East Bengal at the City of Joy.


Bhutia replaces Philippe de Ridder as coach of United Sikkim FC


"Sometimes things just happen and situations call for a different reaction and different perspective. As a team, we are going through a difficult phase. So I have stepped up to take it as a challenge," said the former India captain.

The former Bury FC player was optimistic of his side's ability to bounce back from their heavy defeat against Prayag United. "The 1-10 result is not normal. It may influence a team in two ways. It will either destroy you or motivate you for a revival. I believe I'm professional enough to understand the situation and turn things around," stated Bhutia.

I-League clubs require to fulfill Asian Football Confederation (AFC) criteria of having a AFC A-level licenced coach in charge of the team. Bhutia ruled out coaching a team on a full-time basis for now. "I may go for a coaching license in the future, but it's a distant dream. I have taken this risk with United Sikkim because it's my team. But had it been for clubs like Mohun Bagan or East Bengal, I wouldn't have done so. I don't think I'm ready to coach big teams or the national team," said the Padma Shri winner.

Bhutia reiterated that his new role will not dilute his earlier responsibilities as a player for United Sikkim. "I'm registered as an I-League player. I'm yet to regain cent per cent fitness but if the team needs me, I'll play," said Bhaichung.

When asked what he plans to do after he finally hangs up his boots for good, Bhaichung replied "I don't know. I've never thought that I would own an I-League team. Neither did I think that I would coach a team one day. Life is full of surprises and you have to be prepared for whatever examination you are being thrust into,"

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