Posts Tagged ‘Indian Football’

If the rumours are true, its only a matter of time before the AIFF sacks Bob Houghton, the current British head coach of the Indian National Football team.

This is definitely sad news and sports fans all over the country should be mourning. Bob Houghton is the man who took India to the Asian Cup for the first time in the past 27 years. Lets not forget that the highest ranked Indian team (94th position in 1996) couldn’t manage to do this. Bob Houghton did, and this is how we thank him.

I’ve read contrasting stories in different publications. According to The Telegraph in the UK, the main problem that AIFF has with Houghton is his racist remark about “bastard Indian referees” hurled in the direction of Dinesh Nair during a friendly in Pune last October.

While none of us on this blog condone racism, there’s a very very high possibility that this was a spur of the moment comment. Anyone who watches football regularly knows that refereeing standards are not high anywhere – especially in Houghton’s homeland of England. Anyone who’s seen Mike Riley or Mark Clattenburg in action will know this. Coaches do tend to get pissed off with certain decisions that referees make (anyone who’s seen Fergie yell at officials will testify). I do not think this is sufficient grounds to sack someone who’s done so much for Indian football. Fine him half his salary, yes. Disciplinary hearing – yes. Fine him his entire salary – go ahead and do it. But sack him? Are you joking?

The Indian Mark Clattenburg? Dinesh Nair (Right)

 

Moreover, according to reports in the Telegraph, Houghton hasn’t been given a chance to respond to the allegations. In fact, Bhaichung Bhutia, who was present at the match defended the coach.

Indian newspapers however report that it was India’s performance in the Asia Cup and the friendlies leading up to it that forced the decision on to the AIFF and that the racism allegations will be brought up simply to reduce the severance package of Rs 3 crore for terminating his contract before its expiry. Granted, our performance in the friendlies wasn’t very good. However, look at the teams we lost to – Iraq (rank 88), Kuwait (rank 101) and UAE (rank 111). Okay, so the 9-1 defeat to Kuwait doesn’t look great, but they’re ranked 101 in the world according to FIFA and as any coach will tell you – results of friendlies don’t count for shit.

And another word about Iraq – their present ranking is 88 according to FIFA. Their lowest ranking ever was in 1996 when they were at 139. That was a time when India had their best ranking at 94. Imagine how much Indian football has plummeted since then. This also gives additional proof to my theory that it was the 96 Cricket World Cup held in India that killed the opportunity for any other sport in this country.

That’s besides the point. I think however that the AIFF wasn’t too happy with Houghton because of his statements regarding the general facilities for his team. India has only one FIFA approved stadium and Houghton has repeated time and again that his team has to train abroad because of the lack of facilities within the country. Houghton also mentioned that the turfs his players were forced to use were those that “”no self-respecting top player would play on.” Why should Indian players play on inferior quality turfs? Houghton definitely has a right to voice his concern with regards to this.

He was given a relatively free reign with regards to the management aspect of the team. It was only these areas that he had no control over and probably the only way to draw attention to them was to criticize the facilities. So you’re going to sack him because he’s concerned that his players are playing on poor surfaces?

There were also concerns about the large salary Houghton was drawing – $30,000 per month and in spite of this (and his free reign) didn’t match the expectations of the AIFF. Before all of you gasp at the “large” figure, let me also tell you that Gary Kirsten (at the time of his appointment) also drew a salary of approximately $25000 per month. You could argue that cricket is self sustaining and therefore can afford to pay such a salary. So are you telling that the Indian football team shouldn’t access the best in the business to improve its player’s skills? Besides, Houghton did pretty well, guiding India to two back to back Nehru Cup trophies, and as I already mentioned, helping India qualify for the Asia Cup for the first time, in a really really long time. Moreover, Houghton’s salary is peanuts compared to what clubs in Europe will be ready to give him.

Lets not forget that Houghton is a respected man in football circles. He’s a fantastic coach and he’s taken Malmo to the European Cup final in 1979. If at all the AIFF does sack him after the AFC Challenge Cup in Kuala Lumpur, then I can assure you that there’ll be teams and clubs falling over themselves to secure his signature.

A real hero for Indian Football - Bob Houghton (Left)

At this point, all I can say is a big thank you to Bob Houghton and a big fuck you to the AIFF.

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Part of my objectives of starting this blog includes shedding light on the (piss poor) state of football in India. Hopefully, people who are passionate about the sport in foreign countries will realise that there is tremendous potential in this country but is not exploited at all. I am not going to go into reasons why there’s potential in India for football (the usual shite, such as 1 billion population, why can’t we find a team of 11?).

Everyone knows that the major problem with the sport in India is the lack of infrastructure in the country, so when the President of AIFF (All India Football Federation) comes out and says that there is “no problem with the I-League”, you can’t help but laugh.

Haha, very funny Mr Patel, wait.. you were serious?

There are major problems with the I-League Mr Patel, the most urgent of which needs to be addressed (and hopefully will be addressed) by December 31st – that is professionalizing of the administration of football clubs in India.

However, I must point out that there is no point in professionalizing the administration when there are absolutely no revenues for the clubs in question. The former Chairman of Mahindra United Alan Durante admitted that soccer has never been a commercial venture in India. He’s right of course.

If there are no revenues for the club, then how the hell are you supposed to pay the people who work in the administration of the club, the supposed professionals who should technically be demanding higher wages for their professional degree? Are you going to cut in to player fees and wages?

Professionalizing the administration of the clubs should be one of the final few steps with regards to improving football in India. To start with, you need the support of the Government and authorities to improve the sport at the grassroots level.

Some worrying news is that the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) All Kerala football tournament has not taken place this year because no school in Kerala is ready to host the tournament. Obviously they wouldn’t host a tournament which they feel has no returns. It is worrying because especially in Kerala, football is a sport followed by a large number of people. I’ve met waiters at hotels in remote locations who came up and spoke to me because I was wearing a Manchester United jersey and they wanted to speak to someone else who was  a fan of the team.

Secondly, Mr Patel, you need to ensure that your teams that are playing the I-League get access to the required infrastructure at the right time. I’m going to give you an absolutely ridiculous story but 100% true. Viva Kerala, the team based out of Kochi wanted to use the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi as their home ground and in fact on the club profile the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium is mentioned as their home ground.

Ask me why they’re playing at Kannur and I’m as baffled as you are for a response. If Mr Patel wants to help football develop he should make sure that his federation does whatever it can to help out clubs in the country get access to the best infrastructure that is available to them.

Technically, the only reason they should play in Kochi is because it is their home and they will have higher attendances and all that, but I doubt they’ll have very high attendances because people are simply not interested. Its the same people that wake up at 1 AM (myself included) for a UEFA Champions League match but won’t go 1 hour away for a football match in which their home team plays.

When Mahindra United shut down and Mumbaikars were outraged, Anand Mahindra tweeted asking where all these people were when the team needed support and attendance. The Mahindra Group officially mentioned that they did not see the culture of football changing and they want to change it from the grassroots level, but I’m sure the fact that it is not a profitable venture weighed heavily on their mind. When a $6.3 billion concern worries about its profits, you know there’s something wrong.