As the Indian cricket team searches high and low for its rightful coach, let’s swivel our eyes to a much-neglected area: Indian football. While pundits keep recollecting the Glory Days of the 1960s during and in between All India Football Federation (AIFF) pakora and chai meetings, our men in shorts keep slipping down the Fifa rankings. (We’re ranked 165th in a 199-nation list — 15 spots below Bahamas but 15 spots above Pakistan!) But unlike, say, good old Greg Chappell, India’s national coach Bob Houghton doesn’t want to wait till all the bricks land on him. He prefers to do the throwing first.
A year after the former Fulham and Brighton player took over the reins from Syed Nayeemuddin, the results are there for all to see. In Houghton’s own words, “There was no progress.” Such honesty, however, gets only that much applause. So it’s now semi-official. It’s not so much the apocryphal explanation of ‘non-beefeaters make non-footballers’ that has led India behind the goalpost, but terrible administration.
Coach Houghton thinks that there is no time given for players, especially seniors, to practise together and not enough international matches are played. Local leagues, with their self-serving demands, eat up the time and energy of our ball-pushers. This, along with the lack of world-class facilities lead to a sorry picture on the pitch. Houghton hopes things will get better. AIFF chief Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi? The football is in your court.