India forward hit by two-match ban

Barely had the drama over Bhaichung Bhutia's registration as a player died down, India learnt on Saturday that striker Sushil Singh will miss the first two matches of the Asian Cup because of a red card in the last AFC Challenge Cup.

This came to light at the managers' meeting on Saturday when officials of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) showed India's representatives a copy of the letter that stated Singh, 21, would be barred for two matches for seeing a red card against North Korea.

Singh was expelled in the 82nd minute of India's last game in Sri Lanka last February. The letter was sent to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) last April, an official told HT on Saturday. The official said Singh was in fine form.

Since the AIFF didn't inform the team management about this, Sushil spent the last eight months training with the national squad, travelling to Portugal and the UAE to attend training camps. And like all the squad members, he was put on the AIFF's payroll with at least a 15 per cent hike from his last annual salary at the now-disbanded Mahindra United. All this as it turns out now will be for one match.

India coach Bob Houghton was learnt to be very upset about this development.

Bhutia trains alone
Skipper Bhutia didn't train with the squad on Saturday, fuelling speculation about his availability in the competition where India start against Australia on Monday.


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