Special Correspondent

Colaco defended coach Houghton

He said the team was plagued by injuries

CHENNAI: The Secretary of the All India Football Association, Alberto Colaco has said that not much must be read into India’s loss in the SAFF tournament recently in Colombo. “Though we are expected to win this tournament it does not bring much recognition anyway,” he said.

In a chat during his short stay in the city on Thursday on his way back from Port Blair, where he had gone in connection with the new football stadium being built as part of the tsunami relief scheme, Mr. Colaco said the outcome was no reflection on the team’s preparation or commitment.

“I have seen the way the players had gone about preparing for this tournament. All of them are a committed lot,” he added.

Easy to criticise

On the observation of some critics that what India needed was a proper youth development plan, the AIFF Secretary wanted to know, “how many in the present national team have not come up the junior rungs. Most of them were playing in the junior age group events for the country before gradually rising up to the senior team. It is easy to criticise but certain facts cannot be swept aside,” he said. He also defended national Coach Bob Houghton saying, “every player in the team has only good things to say of him.”

Mr. Colaco said the team had problems of injuries and in fact there was more tension when the team trailed Bhutan in the league phase.

“Fortunately we could get a late equaliser (by Gurmangi),” he said.

He said that the federation was now putting into action a national team development programme which covers not just the senior national team but right from the under-13 level. Airtel has come forward to sponsor this programme in a big way. Some financial assistance from the Union Government would also come since football has been restored to the priority list.

“It will take a few years for results to show but the federation is alive to the needs. At the moment India has an under-16 team that is based in Goa at the Academy there. We are taking care of everything including the education of these young footballers,” he said.

Mr. Colaco maintained that the world over where football has deep roots, clubs nurture young talent and not the federations or associations.

“It would greatly help if the clubs, State association and the federation come together to go about it in a concerted way. We hope to give this idea a start by initially involving a few States,” he said.

Speaking of football affairs in Tamil Nadu he refused to be drawn into issues concerning the Chennai unit, preferring instead to say that “Tamil Nadu is lucky to have the AFC’s Vision Programme and every effort must be made to make the most of it.”

The TFA President, C.R. Visswanathan, in this context said the AIFF Secretary had advised the State association to have a full-time CEO to help in the implementation of various development programmes.

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