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My Indian Football XI of the last decade

I was asked a few days ago to compile my Indian Football XI of all times, but I honestly said that I don’t have the necessary knowledge to do so. And why so? For me to be able to compile such an eleven I should have seen Indian national teams in action since the 1948 London Olympics. Otherwise the compilation of the eleven players would be according to knowledge that I have read up, information I have gathered and/or stories I have heard from others. Therefore I said, let me compile an Indian Football XI from the last decade (2000 to 2010) as I have seen numerous matches live at grounds, on television and on tape plus I have been following Indian Football closely for over a decade now and can allow myself to put such a team of the decade together.

And here is my Indian Football XI of the last decade. I didn’t go for a classical 4-4-2 formation as used by our national coaches as otherwise some players would have missed my team, so I choose a rather attacking 4-3-3 formation. Still some players like Khalid Jamil, Climax Lawrence, Renedy Singh, Steven Dias or Gouramangi Singh didn’t make my first eleven. But on one position there was no doubt and that was the name of the coach as it could only be our very own Bobby Houghton!

INDIAN FOOTBALL XI

Subrata PAL

Sukumar SINGH – Deepak MONDAL – Mahesh GAWLI – Samir Naik

N.P. PRADEEP – Jo Paul ANCHERY – Shanmugam VENKATESH

I.M. VIJAYAN – Baichung BHUTIA – Sunil CHHETRI

Here my reasons for picking the players

1. SUBRATA PAL – Even at a young age Subrata has established himself has one of India’s all-time best goalkeepers. He has won not only matches, but tournaments for India with his keeping and still has quite a few years left in him.

2. IRUNGBAM SURKUMAR SINGH – On his day surely a great right back with attacking instincts, but Surkumar’s inconsistency is his biggest problem. On a bad day he runs aimlessly forward, can lose the ball to often or is too often out of position. Still over the last decade we have not had a better right back.

3. DEEPAK KUMAR MONDAL – A stylish defender who is best known for his sliding tackles and cool game at the back, can slot in as right or left back if needed. Has been the outstanding defensive combo with Mahesh. Deserving was awarded the Arjuna Award yesterday!

4. MAHESH GAWLI – Most probably the best defender of his generation. Will try and run down an attacker rather then bring him down. Mahesh had a blind understanding with Deepak with whom he has played since their TFA days.

5. SAMIR NAIK – the left back position has been a problem for Team India over the last decade, but Samir when fit has been the best in this position though Daljit Singh and K.V. Dhanesh came close to be picked.

6. N.P. PRADEEP – when fit and in top gear India’s Steven Gerrard, a box to box player, who can cover a lot of ground on the field and has a great shot. Who will not remember the 2007 Nehru Cup final. Can also be used in a number of other positions, but best is used in central midfield.

7. JO PAUL ANCHERI – was India’s utility man, wherever the coach needed him, Jo Paul could play there except in goal. But he was best in central midfield, where he could control the ball and the game. Sadly too often injured otherwise could have had an even bigger career.

8. SHANMUGAM VENKATESH – The man with the deft touch in his left foot. For a while also India captain and was always someone dependable in midfield, who with his creativity could create chances for the strikers.

9. I.M. VIJAYAN – technically most probably the best ever Indian footballer! If he was born only 10 to 15 years later, he would have surely made it to Europe. A striker of class who had a great partnership upfront with Baichung. I remember the England Tours where the rest of the team was running around the ground in warm-up and Vijubhai had a ball on his feet. Running with the ball, juggling and not focusing on the running but rather the ball which he loved as he used to hate running.

10. BAICHUNG BHUTIA – The captain and leader on and off the field. Baichung is one of India’s all-time football greats. But he has not only been a captain, but also a prolific goal scorer for India though sadly not in the recent past.

11. SUNIL CHHETRI – Baichung’s heir. If this isn’t a little pressure. Chhetri will have to take over from Baichung when he retires and for Team India he has been a key player over the last three years winning matches and tournaments for India. The Delhi boy will have to shoulder more responsibility in the future.

COACH: BOB HOUGHTON – When he came to India in the summer of 2006 the national team was falling apart. Even Baichung Bhutia was thinking of calling it quits. Since then Bob has rebuild the side, has formed his own team against all odds. And the team has paid back with success by winning the Nehru Cup twice in 2007 & 2009 plus the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup which took India to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup after 27 long years. The biggest challenge is now upon Bob and his boys.

Do you agree with my choices or would you have picked other players? A totally different squad? Do let me know your selection.

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