x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Houghton India rage

India need to scrap "nonsensical" local tournaments and concentrate on building infrastructure if the want to give the national team any chance of making progress.

NEW DELHI // India need to scrap "nonsensical" local tournaments and concentrate on building infrastructure if the want to give the national team any chance of making progress, the national team chief coach Bob Houghton said yesterday. A seething Houghton blamed the federation, clubs and the government for doing almost nothing to develop football or help build a side that could take on leading Asian rivals.

"After three years of being here, I don't think the game has moved forward very quickly," he said yesterday. "We don't see the whole picture, not just the AIFF [All India Football Federation] but the general footballing body, about the standard we need to achieve." Houghton, 61, was angered by the absence of facilities that forced a 10-day training camp starting next week to be moved to Dubai, ahead of a training camp to Spain.

The world governing body Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have been pushing India to improve the organisation of the sport to cash in on a growing economy and take advantage of the region's improving standards. India are former Asian Games champions but their national team are ranked 147 in the world. They are aiming for a turnaround after they won the AFC Challenge Cup last August to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar.

Houghton, who took charge in 2006, has been dismayed by a lack of support for his bid to build a strong team. In February, sports minister MS Gill criticised the standard of the team, saying an Australian school team or members of the Indian side which came fourth in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics could beat the current side. "Why doesn't he produce some facilities?" Houghton said. * Reuters