Kolkata: Indian football icon Bhaichung Bhutia has seen many highs in his illustrious career, but on Friday he confessed that his ultimate dream would come true on January 23 when he gets a chance to play with Pele.
Pele, the legendary Brazilian, will return to Kolkata for an exhibition match with a galaxy of international stars.
The match in India will happen 13 days after Bhutia officially retires from international football by leading the country in an exhibition match against Bayern Munich in New Delhi.
"When I grew up playing football in my village, I knew only of Pele. So, obviously it will be a lifetime achievement to play with him. I am really looking forward to shake hands with him," Bhutia told reporters, announcing the exhbition friendly.
The coming trip will be 71-year-old Pele's second visit to the football-crazy city. He will be here as an ambassador of the Superstars XI that will be led by compatriot and two-time World Cup winner Cafu.
The Superstars XI will take on Indian Dream XI in the exhibition tie.
"It would be really a competitive match. It's a dream Indian team and I am really looking forward to playing with the likes of I M Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri. Hopefully, we will get a fit Sunil Chhetri. And we will play to win so that we can proudly say that we have beaten the world's 'best team'," Bhutia said.
Bhutia also revealed plans to rope in former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly and also add a bit of glamour quotient with the inclusion of some Bollywood and Tollywood celebrities.
"We know his (Ganguly's) love for football. It would be really nice to have him alongside Mahendra Singh Dhoni if they are available. There will also be a few Bollywood stars whose names would be revealed later. But the main aim is to make a competitive team as we want to win."
The Superstars XI also includes Roberto Carlos and has Ruud Gullit as its coach.
The players of Superstars XI will arrive here on January 21 and conduct a football clinic besides other promotional events.
The trip to India is a part of a world tour of 20 countries where Pele and Co will play similar exhibition matches, beginning with Nepal.
"The biggest impact of the event will be that it will generate huge interest and secondly it's happening for a cause. The proceeds will go to FPAI (Football Players Association of India) fund which will help the country's needy footballers," Bhutia said.
Bhutia also credited Delhi-based firm JPR Events for organising the show.
The organisers said they were also trying to bring Brazilian stalwarts Ronaldinho and Ronaldo and Italian star Roberto Baggio, but the trio were yet to confirm.
"The rest of the stars including Pele and Cafu have confirmed. Pele will be travelling with the team. (Pele) Also an honorary ambassador of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, it would be an opportunity to promote the extravaganza here," CEO of JPR Events, Sunil Hamal said.
The match will be played for a full 90-minutes with the kick-off time at 2pm, the organisers said.
From India, the world team would travel to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Singapore, Indonesia among other countries.
Bhutia said the All India Football Federation was not directly involved in the match, but the national body would be invited for the friendly tie.
The tickets will be available from Sunday at different outlets and stadia of the city in the denominations of Rs 300 and 500.
The organisers will distribute VIP tickets to I-League players while country's stalwarts will be given VVIP passes for the match.
Way back on September 22, 1977, Kolkata was gripped by Pele fever as he drew more than 80,000 fans to the Eden Gardens for an exhibition match against Mohun Bagan.
After Pele, Kolkata's tryst with the legends of the game has continued as it has hosted German World Cup winning captain Lothar Matthaus, legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, Argentine great Diego Maradona and World player of the year Lionel Messi.
Superstars XI: Cafu (capt), Pele, Regi Blinker, Roberto Carlos, Zola, Denilson, Pierre van Hooijdonk, Angsker Birkman, Winston Bogarde, Christian Karaembu, Roland Kopp, Ronald De Boer, Marcel Oerlemans, Rudolf Schenker. Coach: Ruud Gullit.