x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Wim Koevermans right man to coach India football team

Challenge facing Dutchman to change playing style, to emphasise ball retention, close control and pressing when opposition has ball.

Bob Houghton, left, seen here in a picture taken in 2007 with Baichung Bhutia, was coach of the India football team for five years. Manan Vatsyayana / AFP
Bob Houghton, left, seen here in a picture taken in 2007 with Baichung Bhutia, was coach of the India football team for five years. Manan Vatsyayana / AFP

Wim Koevermans,who now coach-es India, knows what it takes for a football team to be successful. Towards the end of a 12-year career – he spent the bulk of it with Fortuna Sittard – he was part of the Dutch squad that won Euro 1988.

Foreigners have coached Indian football before.

When Syed Rahim, who led the team to Asian Games glory in 1951 and 1962, died in 1963, it was Harry Wright, an Englishman, that took over. In 1983, Joe Kinnear, most celebrated for his work at Wimbledon, had a stint. Bob Houghton's five-year spell ended after the Asian Cup in 2011, India's first appearance on the big stage in nearly three decades.

The new coach's first assignment, starting next week, is the Nehru Cup, an invitational tournament that will also feature Maldives, Nepal, Syria and Cameroon. With World Cup qualification a distant dream, the Nehru Cup is a first step for Koevermans.

Baichung Bhutia, the best player India has produced in recent times, is now 35 and more of a mentor than a player with United Sikkim FC. Sunil Chettri, who had a failed stint in Major League Soccer, is now with Sporting Lisbon's B team. Even as India's own I League struggles to establish itself, the best players find it hard to break through abroad.

Part of the challenge facing Koevermans will be to change the playing style, to emphasise ball retention, close control and pressing when the opposition has the ball. Given his background, he could well be the right man for the job.

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