Former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia has stressed on Indian players needing to ply their trade abroad suggesting to young professionals that playing overseas is a "gamble" which they should take.
In a live chat with AIFF TV, Bhaichung Bhutia said: "I would suggest young players in India to take a gamble and play for a club abroad. You will need to make sacrifices and it may not pay as well as what a top player in India earns. However, once you reach the age of 25-26 years then you can look into the financial aspect."
"Our players don't have to play in the top European leagues. They can play in Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea, Qatar, UAE or countries like Belgium, for example," Bhaichung said.
During his illustrious career, Bhaichung spent three years with English club Bury FC after, and later went on to have two stints in Malaysia -- with Perak FA and then Selangor MK Land respectively.
The striker who has been inducted in the AFC Hall of Fame highlighted how playing abroad helped him improve as a player, and made him understand "what professional football is all about".
"Playing abroad teaches you a lot. If not technical-wise, it certainly gives you an idea of what professional football is all about, and how the business of football works. As a player, you improve and learn. My experience with Bury FC was really good. It definitely made me aware of the kind of player I am and helped me improve myself," he said.
Bhaichung cited the example of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who spent three years with Norwegian club Stabaek FC -- where he became the first Indian to play in the UEFA Europa League. He returned to India in 2017 -- at the age of 25 -- signing for Bengaluru FC, and Bhaichung termed Gurpreet's decision as a "good gamble".
"Gurpreet is a good example. He had done really well playing in Norway and made great strides -- even featuring in the Europa League. These clubs may not pay as well but it is a sacrifice you have to make. Gurpreet took the call to come back to India as they (Stabaek FC) weren't paying him the amount that he would receive here (in India)," Bhaichung said.
(With inputs from IANS)