Sports Reporter

NEW DELHI: Livid at the absence of proper infrastructure and facilities in India, chief coach Bob Houghton on Thursday said the lack of interest in persons directly concerned with the game was affecting the growth of Indian football.

“I have been here for three years. We are not moving forward quickly enough because we do not understand what the standard we need to achieve is and how to get there,” Houghtsaid at a press conference here.

The Englishman said the top players of the country should not waste time in playing domestic tournaments like Santosh Trophy. “If you are serious about qualifying for the World Cup, then you should forget playing nonsensical and stupid tournaments like Santosh Trophy, Durand Cup and IFA Shield,” he said.

“Professionals playing Santosh Trophy against a bunch of amateurs at the end of the season don’t make any sense. Do you believe Steven Gerrard will play for some hotchpotch trophy at the end of the season?” Houghton argued.

Short on quality

The former Fulham mid-fielder said these domestic competitions fall short on quality. “If you are playing these tournaments then do not ask why the National team does not qualify for major tournaments and why we are 147 in the world,” he said. Houghton was upset that the I-League teams did not meet all the criteria laid out for professional clubs.

The coach was disheartened that the National side did not have a proper ground to train. Citing an example, Houghton gave the description of the practice ground in Gurgaon. “Every evening, groups of youngsters would invade the pitch for cricket practice. Some would even indulge in javelin throw. Have you ever heard of any international team training in the said circumstances anywhere in the world?”

“After 100 years of football we are 147 in the world. You can sack the coach and bring another one, but you will still be 147. There is a need to change people’s perception about the big picture,” he remarked.

Houghton also took a dig at the government for not showing enough interest in creating infrastructure.

However, Houghton was happy that the side produced some good results, which kept him motivated to work with it.

Houghton said the time left for the AFC Asian Cup in 2011 should be utilised carefully.

The National team will fly to Dubai on June 25 to train there for a few days with state-of-the-art facilities. Then the team, with 24 players, would move to Spain on July 7 to play some matches against regional sides in Barcelona.

On the Baichung Bhutia issue, Houghton said, “They could have avoided the situation from turning into a nuclear explosion. It is ridiculous for Indian football.”

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