DOHA, Jan 13 (PTI): National football team coach Bob Houghton today compared Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia with legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar for the influence they have on their respective team-mates �on and off the field�.
�Bhaichung has won a celebrity dance competition in India, he is a celebrity in India,� Houghton said in a lighter vein when asked if the �Sikkimese Sniper� can be compared with Tendulkar.
On a more serious note, Houghton told a press conference on the eve of India�s second match against Bahrain that both are role models in their respective sports.
�Comparison between Bhaichung and Sachin must be going over the heads of a lot of people here who don�t know cricket,� Houghton said.
�The best cricketer in the world is in India. Tendulkar is a very fine role model, a fine person. Comparison with Bhaichung is similar.
�They are of the same age, they keep going. Bhaichung retired a few years ago (in 2006) but came back. This man is a major influence on the team on and off the field. He is a leader. If we can get him out on the field, he could make a difference for us,� said the 63-year-old Englishman.
Houghton said that Bhutia�s influence on the team is such that having him in the ongoing Asian Cup squad despite the skipper being not fully fit was �worth a gamble�.
Ruled out of tomorrow�s match against Bahrain after missing out on the country�s opening Asian Cup fixture against Australia due to a calf muscle injury, Bhutia is expected to play in the third match against South Korea on Januray 18.