New Delhi: A section of the All India
Football Federation top brass is not happy with coach Bob
Houghton for trying to "dictate" terms on the national body in
matters relating to the country`s preparations for next year`s
Asian Cup in Qatar.
Some of the officials who attended the Emergency
Committee meeting on Wednesday were not happy on Houghton
refusing to play international friendly matches against
African sides next month.
They also questioned why the Indian national football
team who are on a two-month training tour of Portugal have
only played with lower division club sides at the expense of
"The AIFF is spending more than Rs 3 crore in the
Portugal tour and the team is playing against only third or
second division sides. Why not Houghton arranged at least a
couple of matches against first division sides?" a top
"We understand that the players would be demoralised if
they lost but they could have played against low-ranked first
division sides at least. They could have built up by playing
against the third or second division sides and then play
against first division sides towards the end of the tour," he
told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
"You are going to play against Australia and South Korea
in the Asian Cup and you are playing against B teams in
preparation," the official wondered.
Regarding Houghton not wanting to play against African
sides, the official reasoned that since West Asian countries
are not available for a regional tournament next month, the
AIFF had thought that the national side could play against
Namibia or Gambia who are above India in FIFA rankings.
"Because of West Asian Cup (September 24-October 3), the
West Asian countries are not available. Playing friendlies
against Japan, Australia or South Korea are out of question so
we thought of African countries who are above us in rankings.”
"But we are told Houghton does not like it. He is
dictating terms on us on everything. He wants us to do
according to what he says," the official said.
The AIFF Emergency Committee rejected Houghton`s proposal
to have a camp in Dubai and play local sides there before the
"Why would the national side play against club sides all
the time? Asian Cup is the most prestigious competition in the
continent and not a club tournament. Moreover, we have an
obligation towards national team sponsor Panasonic to play at
least six international matches in a year," he said.
Meanwhile, some of the state associations have expressed
their reservation on the Federation Cup qualifying format this
year where only select teams will play.
This year only eight teams will play in the qualifiers.
Two out of the eight are those relegated from the I-League --
Shillong Lajong and Sporting Clube de Goa -- while the other
six are those who played in the second division of I-League --
Oil India, Mohammedan Sporting, NISA, Vasco SC, Malabar United
and Sesa Football Academy.
Delhi Soccer Association Secretary N K Bhatia said the
qualifiers should have been held on zonal basis. He said more
clubs should be allowed to take part in the qualifiers which
should be held for a much longer duration.
"Nowadays there are very few national level tournaments
the clubs can play. DSA is running a state league and the
clubs are spending lots of money. They even buy foreign
players but they are not getting any chance to play in
national tournaments," he said.
"The AIFF should have organised qualifying tournaments in
various zones for a much longer duration so that more clubs
have chance to take part in them. Most of the clubs are
concentrated in few states.”
"If you want to spread the game you should encourage more
clubs across the country to play in national level
tournaments," he said.