Indian team progress held-back by too few games

According to India's national coach, Bob Houghton, his squad has seen “no progress” over the last 12 months, because of lack of international exposure. The senior team played only three full internationals since Houghton took over as various domestic and other commitments kept it from playing more games. “We played two Asian Cup qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and one against Japan. This is too few in a season,” he told a media conference quoted by Press Trust of India.

Houghton said the domestic calendar was the main obstacle to raising the standard of the team. “The calendar is not conducive at all. We have to sort it out. There are too many matches in a short period which results in injuries and prevents proper recovery ... There needs to be a compromise if we are to realise our goals, which are to be among the top 10 and eventually the top five in Asia, which will give us a chance to qualify for the World Cup,” he said.

Various traditional local leagues and inter-state competitions insist on having the top players, who get overworked and unable to give their best for the national team. “There are a lot of self-interest groups involved here,” he alleged. In one example cited, he said that he had to release eight players from the national camp six days prior to an important Asian Cup qualifier last year for a East Bengal-Mohun Bagan match in the Kolkata League. “That is unacceptable and would not be allowed in any other country,” he said.

The All India Football Federation has now decided that players in a national camp will not be allowed to play any league matches in the 14 days prior to a senior international. Things, however, look better now with India concentrating on senior internationals and scheduled to play about 15 matches in the coming 12 months.

Indian squad: Goalkeepers - Arindam Bhattacharya, Sandip Nandy, Subhashish Roy Choudhary, Subrata Paul. Defenders - Surkumar Singh, Mahesh Gawli, Deepak Mondal, Syed Rahim Nabi, Samir Naik, Sanjeev Maria, NS Manju, Debabrata Roy. Midfielders - K Ajayan, Climax Lawrence, NP Pradeep, Clifford Miranda, Steven Dias, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Renedy Singh, Bungo Singh, Gourmangi Singh. Forwards - Baichung Bhutia, Sunil Chetri, Abhishek Yadav, Manjit Singh, Tarif Ahmed, Anthony Pereira.