Dempo, EB turn down Houghton request to send players to Dubai

New Delhi: Dempo and East Bengal today turned down India football coach Bob Houghton`s request to send goalkeeper Sandip Nandy and winger Joaquim Abranches in Dubai to join the injury-hit national side for the Asian Cup camp.

Houghton had wanted East Bengal`s Nandy and Dempo`s Abranches as replacements of injured goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya and Anthony Pereira who has already returned to Goa after suffering an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) while training in Dubai.

Dempo wondered how Abranches can join the national camp as he has not even recovered from his injury while East Bengal, table toppers in the I-League after five rounds, said they do not want to break momentum by losing Nandy at this juncture.

"We got the letter from the AIFF (to release Abranches) on Friday but Joaqium is not even fit to play in the I-League for the club. How can he be fit for the national camp? We are not releasing him," Dempo manager Tony Almeida told reporters from Goa.

"We are replying to the AIFF letter on Monday but we are not releasing Abranches," Almeida said.

A top East Bengal official also said that there was no question of releasing Nandy for the camp in Dubai.

"East Bengal is doing very well in the I-League and Nandy is doing a good job. We can`t release Nandy at this juncture. We can`t lose the momentum. We have replied to the AIFF that we are not releasing him," an East Bengal official said from Kolkata.

The national team, training in Dubai since early November for the January 7-29 Asian Cup in Doha, have been hit hard by injuries with seven-eight players in the casualty list.

Skipper Bhaichung Bhutia is yet to recover fully from his hamstring injury though his strike partner Sunil Chhetri has started training after an ankle injury.