“Good grounds and good coaches will give you good players.” Chief football coach Bob Houghton had this simple mantra.
“I have said this before and I will say it again. In the years to come, we have some good enough players at the under-16 and under-19 level but we need the facilities,” said the India coach ahead of the Nehru Cup to be held here from August 19.
Apart from India, the others teams in the tournament are Syria, Sri Lanka, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan.
His observations on Friday came even before a visit to the Ambedkar Stadium, the venue for the tournament, presently under siege because of Independence Day celebrations. Houghton will assess the facilities only on Monday.
Speaking on the Nehru Cup, Houghton said: “it is a nice feeling to be regarded as the team to beat. The only pressure is to see the boys are prepared.”
Houghton said the preparations have been good. “The facilities were simply outstanding,” he said of the recent tour of Dubai and Barcelona where the team trained.
“We rarely get such a surface to train on. For the boys, it was a huge motivational factor. The training, the gymnasium and swimming pool were too good. The walk from the hotel to the training ground was hardly 200 metres. The boys couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Houghton commended the team on its performance during the tour.
“I thought we did reasonably well. We were playing full time clubs and it was nice to see that we did not lose any of the four matches.”
Houghton once again pleaded for his top players to be used sparingly.
“This is an issue that needs big attention. The players are getting injured and we must realize that football is their career. The best players have to be kept fit and the injuries need to be diagnosed properly. We must be more professional. There is one professional league and the players should not be involved in other competitions if they are playing the professional league.”
The coach emphasised: “It is unnecessary for the top players to be playing in Santosh Trophy (National championship). Sunil (Chetri) should not have played the Santosh trophy. We have players who compete in the I-league and then go and play the Santosh Trophy.” He cited the example of Climax Lawrence who was involved in the I-league and then the Santosh Trophy too.
Houghton drew a positive picture on the availability of Chetri for the Nehru Cup. “He looked good (at the training on Friday) and showed no ill-effects of the injury.” Chetri has been troubled by an ankle injury.
Looking ahead, Houghton observed that India had a good chance at the Nehru Cup. “The match against Syria (in 2007) was the turning point as far as we are concerned. The players were so committed against a team like Syria.” He said he was looking forward to the tournament, but requested that good facilities be made available to the players.
The draw (all matches start at 6.30 p.m.):
Aug 19: India v Lebanon; Aug 20 : Krygystan v Syria; Aug 21: Sri Lanka v Lebanon; Aug 22: India v Krygystan; Aug 23: Syria v Sri Lanka; Aug 24: Lebanon v Krygystan; Aug 25: India v Sri Lanka; Aug 26: Syria v Lebanon; Aug 27: Sri Lanka v Krygystan; Aug 28: India v Syria; Aug 31: Final.