Houghton resignation to dominate AIFF meeting

New Delhi: National coach Bob Houghton`s
threat to resign if his contract is not extended beyond next
year is expected to dominate the discussions at the All India
Football Federation`s Executive Committee meeting here
on Friday.

On learning that the AIFF has started looking for a new
coach after India`s Asian Cup campaign in January next year, a
miffed Houghton, whose current tenure ends at the end of that
tournament, has threatened to resign if his contract is not
renewed till 2013.

Houghton is understood to have served a three-month
notice starting from April 30 though he is open to stay back
as coach if the AIFF Executive Committee agrees tomorrow to
his terms, which reportedly included a USD 10,000 per month
hike in his salary.

The 62-year-old Englishman is not without his supporters
in the 18-member Executive Committee and sources said they are
not happy with the shabby treatment meted out to him.

But they are not expected to voice their unhappiness as
AIFF President Praful Patel is understood to be working to
keep Houghton at least till the Asian Cup.

"Since the players, led by Bhaichung Bhutia, solidly
behind Houghton, his departure would demoralise the them
before the Asian Cup. India has qualified after 26 years, and
Patel has more or less decided to ask Houghton to stay back,"
a top AIFF source said.

"Houghton is unlikely to stay beyond the Asian Cup, he
would have left after the tournament. The prudent course of
action on AIFF`s part would have been to offer to renew his
contract and then it would have been his choice to accept it
or not. Considering the achievements under him, it should have
been left to him to choose whether he wants to stay back or
not," the source added.

Houghton`s detractors are, however, expected to take
position that the AIFF should not cave in to the "blackmailing
tactics" of the Englishman and they would oppose the reported
USD 10,000 per month hike in his pay.

"Houghton has been using blackmailing tactics in the
present case. Indian football will not suffer if he leaves
now. He has been wasting money of the federation for four
years now. We can`t agree to whatever he wants," said an
executive committee member on the condition of anonymity.

Houghton has prepared an ambitious plan for the Asian Cup
and Patel does not want to jeopardise the preparations of the
national team, which means the Executive Committee would agree
to a renewal of Houghton`s contract. But it is to be seen
whether the AIFF inserts some conditions in the contract.

Sources said that after Houghton, through his agent, sent
the ultimatum, the federation had written back saying that it
was ready to accept his demands but would insert at least half
a dozen conditions.

Moreover, it will be a difficult job for the AIFF to
agree to Houghton`s demand for USD 10,000 per month hike in
pay, which is half the amount of his current reported salary.

The Executive Committee will also discuss the national
team`s preparations for the Asian Cup, which depends on the
Houghton issue as he has already drawn a broad plan of foreign
tours and international friendlies in the build-up to the
elite continental event.

Other issues to be discussed by the Executive Committee
at the AIFF headquarters tomorrow include next I-League
structure after the pulling out of Mahindra United, matters
relating to women`s football and factional problems in state
associations, including that of Andhra Pradesh Football

The AIFF had entrusted senior Executive Member C R
Viswanathan to look into the factional fight in the Andhra
Pradesh Football Association.