Players throw weight behind Houghton, want him to stay

Kolkata: Indian footballers, led by captain
Bhaichung Bhutia, today threw their weight behind coach Bob
Houghton and said the country`s football fortunes would
nosedive if the Englishman quits his job.

Miffed at the way the All Indian Football Federation was
looking for his successor after his current tenure expires on
January 31 next year, Houghton has sent his resignation but
the AIFF has rejected it.

Bhutia pleaded the authorities to cooperate with Houghton
and said India ill-affords to let the Englishman go before the
Asian Cup in Qatar in January next year.

"It`s sad that we are not cooperating with Houghton and
obstructing in his way of functioning. It will be a big
setback for Indian football if he leaves at this stage, when
we are getting ready for Asian Cup. We need him more than
anything else," Bhutia told.

"I am sure Indian football profile will go up with his
support. He had a big role in our qualification for Asian Cup.
He is taking Indian football in the right direction. India
need him more than Houghton needs us," added Bhutia, who also
heads the Football Players` Association of India.

"I just hope the issue gets sorted out as soon as
possible. I know he has offers from Bahrain, Australia, so
it`s easy for him to go. But right now, we need people like
Houghton, the team wants him," he said.

The Sikkimese said Houghton had the well-being of Indian
football in his mind and because of him the game has witnessed
some upward movement in the country.

"Indian football has not changed in the last 30-40 years.
There has to be changes, in terms of structure and overall
basis. People should be ready to accept changes. But there are
some who do not want change. He (Houghton) is not doing for
his personal benefit. We need to sit out and experiment with
new ideas," said Bhutia.

Bhutia`s national team-mate Gouramangi Singh credited the
"gradual rise in profile" in Indian football to Houghton and
said his leaving the job at this stage will demoralise the

"Credit for the improvement of players and gradual rise
of profile of the sport in the country in the last three years
should mainly go to Houghton. If he goes now Indian football
would go back to the square one," said the central defender.

India`s number one goalkeeper Subrata Pal, who prospered
under Houghton in the last few years, said football in the
country will suffer if he leaves now.

"The step forward we have taken holding Bob`s hand has
been great. If he leaves Indian football will fall back by 50
years. Indian football will suffer a lot. We can not let this
happen," he said. Right winger Steven Dias said, "I cannot think of a
scenario where Bob will not be with us. Being pitted in a
tough group in the Asia Cup does not really scare us. This is
much because of confidence he has raised among us."

Midfielder Climax Lawrence and defender Surkumar Singh
pleaded the AIFF to keep Houghton with the team.

"For the past three years we have been following his
tactics and formations. If a new person comes in at this
crucial stage it will be difficult for us to adapt and we will
not be able to produce good results. We need Bob Houghton to
stay and the federation should try its best to keep Houghton
with us," Climax said.

"Houghton had told us the importance of this year. If we
can stick together for eight months then we will definitely
play a different football. All of us are disappointed having
heard of his resignation. I hope the federation takes the
necessary action required," Surkumar said.

Mohun Bagan and East Bengal top officials, however, felt
that Houghton has got undue advantage by "blackmailing" the
AIFF and Indian football would not suffer if the Englishman
leaves now.

"Houghton is blackmailing the AIFF and it`s high time
that he leaves. Under him, there has been a big loss for
Indian football. We have no future in the Asian Cup, it`s a
top-level tournament and we will lose straightaway. He knows
about it very well so he is leaving. We are wasting lakhs of
rupees on him," Mohun Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra said.

"AIFF is wasting lots of money on him. He is here to
swindle money from the federation and we are giving respect to
him, just because he is an Englishman. It will be better for
the Indian football, if he goes; a lot of money will be saved.
He is a big zero," said East Bengal Secretary Kalyan Majumdar.



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