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Remembering India’s Asian Cup 2011 campaign: When Bob Houghton spoke the Truth

Amoy Ghoshal
FEATURED COLUMNIST
13 Jan 2013, 18:28 IST

bob

Bob Houghton’s contribution to Indian football will never be forgotten, even by the AIFF, who eventually fell out with the English coach and put him under pressure to resign.

The English coach took India to the biggest stage in the continent and his legacy still lives on in the form of the continuation of the Indian Arrows (now Pailan Arrows) project, which was his idea initially and the regular foreign exposure trips for the senior national team, which was a trend during his tenure.

Although the alleged racist remark on referee Dinesh Nair played a huge role in his exit as India coach, it was his comments about the failures of AIFF in front of international media ahead of India’s second match of Asian Cup 2011 against Bahrain that ensured that his departure would be a matter of time.

Talking about the poor state of Indian football, Houghton hit out at the Indian FA saying that ‘they had let down their players’.

“I have got a group of players here. Look at Renedy, he has played for many years in India, is a very good footballer and he has got to where he is despite playing in a country with no infrastructure, no development programmes and very poor coaches. He has got here using what was at his disposal.”

“When he was playing for the under-19s and he played against Japan, the teams couldn’t be differentiated. But five years later when he played them, the difference was huge. Of course, that’s got to do with the quality of the J-League and the facilities in Japan. And in India, players like Renedy have been let down by their federation (AIFF).”

The AIFF expectedly took offence to these words but the fact of the matter is, every word that the English coach had said back then was completely true. He was always known to speak his heart and these strong words created more enemies for him in the federation.

Houghton was at it again before India’s final group game against South Korea, this time speaking out against the lack of a scouting system at grassroots level.

“Where are the young players? You need to have your league organised at the U-12 and U-14 levels too and have good training facilities. (Wayne) Rooney played in the youth leagues, got into the first team of Everton and then got transferred to Manchester United and that’s how he was spotted.

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“You can’t expect the national coach to find players in the bushes,” said Houghton.

Houghton would be show caused after guiding India to the main rounds of the AFC Challenge Cup 2012 and he would soon resign, much to the disappointment of several national team players and fans.

Have the AIFF taken note of any of Houghton’s observations and done something about it? Well, they now have a plan to set up regional academies with the ones in Navi Mumbai and Kolkata already running. But is it enough progress in two years? We leave that for YOU fans to decide.

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