Bhaichung Bhutia, the contender for the AIFF presidency, said that political pressure prevented his home state association, Sikkim FA, from endorsing him at the upcoming general body elections. One of Indian football's greatest superstars, Bhutia, is gearing up for the president's position.
Kalyan Chaubey, a former goalkeeper for Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, is his opponent and is seen to be the front-runner with support from political powerhouse state organisations like Gujarat and Arunachal Pradesh. Bengal's BJP is led by Chaubey. State organisations from Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh put out and supported Bhutia's nomination. His state association did not provide him any assistance.
Bhutia, a former player renowned as "Sikkimese Sniper" for his ability to score goals, accused leaders of the ruling Sikkim Krantakari Morcha (SKM) party of interfering by putting pressure on Ethenpa to vote against him.
"I suggest that the few SKM party leaders trying to interfere in the elections 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. "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."
In addition, Bhutia stated that if Ethenpa wants to see football develop in Sikkim, he needs to vacate the position he has had for the previous 16 years. Additionally, he claimed that retired bureaucrat Ethenpa was mismanaging the association and not carrying out the tasks assigned to him. He accused the SFA of having "corruption" and "misappropriation" of cash.
The great footballer, who retired in 2011 after being the first Indian to play 100 full internationals for the nation, stated, "After the AIFF presidential elections, I will move court seeking a third party investigation into the accounts of SFA."
Ethenpa's large family is represented in the state association's executive board, according to Bhutia, which he said is against the regulations governing sports in the nation.
"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.