x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Visa snags stall India's Dubai trip

India's plans for a 10-day national team training camp in Dubai en route to Barcelona have run into a travel snag.

Bob Houghton, the coach of India's national team, has promised to stay on until the 2011 Asia Cup despite his frustrations.
Bob Houghton, the coach of India's national team, has promised to stay on until the 2011 Asia Cup despite his frustrations.

DUBAI // India's plans for a 10-day national team training camp in Dubai en route to Barcelona have run into a travel snag. The All India Football Federation (AIFA) are still trying to obtain visas to enter Spain for their scheduled one-month camp in Barcelona. The India national team, accopanied by technical staff and officials, had been due to arrive in Dubai today for a 10-day camp before heading to Barcelona.

"The delays were because visas had to be applied for in different parts of the country," said the AIFF's general secretary, Alberto Colaco. "Our travel plans to Dubai will depend on how soon we get the travel documents to Spain. We should know this by Thursday, and if there are no further delays, we will be travelling on Friday." The 34-strong party will stay at the Savoy Park Hotel in Bur Dubai and train at the Sevens pitch. This will be their third visit to Dubai, following training camps in 2006 and 2007.

The travel setbacks will do little to ease the frustrations of the team's coach, Bob Houghton. The former Fulham midfielder has not been pleased with India's football progress despite leading them to two international titles, the Nehru International tournament and the AFC Challenge Cup, that earned them an automatic qualification to the 2011 Asian Cup finals. Houghton has complained of mismanagement, the standard of the domestic competitions and woeful infrastructure. "If India want to qualify for the World Cup, players should forget about playing in stupid competitions like the Santosh Trophy, Durand Cup and the IFA Shield," he said. "You either play in these tournaments or think of playing in the World Cup. The professionals playing in the Santosh Trophy against a bunch of amateurs at the end of the season doesn't make any sense."

He also criticised I-League clubs, saying that not a single team qualify to be designated a truly professional club. The I-League replaced the National Football League in the 2007-2008 season. "Some teams don't have doctors, physio, assistant coaches, goalkeeping coaches and training grounds," said Houghton. "Last season I also saw a coach taking over in the middle of the season whose only experience was with kids."

Houghton felt that even with a long football history, there is no proper infrastructure for the sport in India. "Even after 100 years, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal do not have a training ground. There is not a single proper training ground in the country. There are zero facilities here. There is just one proper football stadium in the country [Ambedkar Stadium]. We need more purpose-built football stadiums."

Houghton has spent four years with the Indian team and despite his frustrations has vowed to continue with the job until the 2011 Asian Cup for the sake of the national team players. "They are honest and hard working despite all the problems," he said. @Email:apassela@thenational.ae