Bhutia excited to play with Drogba, Gerrard

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Baichung Bhutia is all geared up to play along with the likes of Didier Drogba, Kaka and Steven Gerrard in the international exbition match on July 12.

Updated: July 02, 2008 17:32 IST
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New Delhi:

Indian football team captain Baichung Bhutia is all geared up to play along with the likes of Didier Drogba, Kaka and Steven Gerrard in the international exbition match on July 12 in Munich to raise funds for African children.

Baichung will play in the Goal 4 Africa match, to be kicked off by football legends Pele and Michael Platini, on the invitation of Goal 4 Africa ambassador and Dutch star Clearance Seedorf in the unique event inspired by Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela's dream of "Education for all -- all for education".

"I am honoured to be invited for the match. It is also an honour for the country. I am looking forward to play in the match," Baichung said after Indian team's workout during the ongoing camp for the AFC Challenge Cup.

"I gather that Gerrard and Drongba will play there, but for the rest of the international players, I will be able to know later when the match nears," he said.

The match, which aims to raise 90 million Euros, will be held around Mandela's 90th birthday, which falls on July 18.

Baichung will leave Portugal for Germany on July 10 to play the match and will return home along with the team.

Celebrities from other walks of life, world leaders and corporate CEOs will play along with a galaxy of football stars like Kaka, Gerrard, Buffon, van Nistelroy, Michael Essien, Gattusso, Sergio Ramos and Emanuel Adebayor.

The 'Goal 4 Africa' global foundation works on the motto: donate an amount every time a goal is scored, be it in an amateur competition in your neighbourhood or at the international level.

Baichung's India strike partner Sunil Chhetri also feels that the Sikkimese Sniper playing in the charity match was "an honour for the country".

"It is a great honour for the country. When we heard the news in Maldives (for the SAAFF Cup) all the team members were excited for Baichung. He deserves it and I hope he plays for the country for many more year's to come," he said.

Meanwhile, the 31 probables for the AFC Challenge Cup had around 90-minute workout at the Ambedkar stadium under the watchful eyes of coach Bob Houghton and his support staff in hot and humid conditions.

Two players -- central defender Gouramangi Singh and goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya -- did not turn up today. Gouramangi was having fever and he decided to stay put at the team hotel Taj Palace.

Arindam had left for home after knowing that his passport had been lost and he is expected to join the camp on Saturday.

Baichung, Renedy Singh, Steven Dias, Sandip Nandy, Surkumar Singh, Mahesh Gawli, K Ajayan Nair and NS Manju, who were recovering from various injuries, had only light exrcises and did not take part in the strenuous workout of the other players which included attacking through changing of flanks and through short passes, and crossing and shooting drills.

Twenty-seven players will be chosen for a 10-day training-cum-competition tour to Portugal, for which the team will leave on July 2 or 3 to play three matches. It will resume the camp from July 16 to choose a final squad of 23 for the July 30-August 10 AFC Challenge Cup in Hyderabad.

India will play a friendly against Malaysia on July 22 in Hyderabad as a build-up to Asia's second tier competition whose winner team will get automatic qualification for the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha.

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