India's new football coach Armando Colaco appears set on building a brand new national team with a stress on his own club Dempo -- he has dropped 12 seniors, including captain Bhaichung Bhutia, from the 42 probables for the World Cup qualifiers against United Arab Emirates (UAE). And, he has chosen nine players from Dempo.
Besides Bhutia, Abhishek Yadav, Renedy Singh, Anwar Ali, Govin Singh, Jagpreet Singh, Surkumar, Dipak Mondal, Mohammad Rafi, James Singh, Baljeet Sahni and goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury have not been selected. The 12 players formed the core of Bob Houghton's team for the last three years.
Armando dispelled doubts that this is the end of the road for the seniors, Bhutia in particular, saying "they can come back on merit".
"I have full respect for the seniors and I am aware of their contribution to Indian football. Obviously, it was a very difficult decision for me. I relied on present form and building a team for the future," he said.
The Goan said that he selected players on the merit of their performance in the I-League.
"Players who have played well in the I-League have been preferred over others. Hence, some big names had to be left out. If we are to look at the future, we need to concentrate on the youngsters who performed well in AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur," he said.
Armando, however, chose nine players from his club Dempo.
"AIFF asked me to build the national team on Dempo-style and that's why I have taken nine players from my club. But most of the Dempo players formed the core of the national team in the last five years," he said.
Armando said that Indian Arrows team will form the nucleus of the national side. The Indian Arrows, comprising under-21 team, has been formed by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to prepare the national team for the 2018 World Cup.
"Indian Arrows is a great concept and the national team will build around that side. Seven players from Indian Arrows team are among the probables," he said.
Goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya and midfielder Anthony Pereira, who are not among the probables, will also be part of the camp as part of their ongoing rehabilitation process. India play their away match in Doha July 23 and their home match in Delhi is slated for July 28.
List of probables:
Goalkeepers: Subrata Pal (Pune FC), Jagroop Singh (Indian Arrows), Sandip Nandy (Kingfisher East Bengal), Karanjit Singh (Salgaocar), Laxmikant Kattimani (Dempo SC).
Defenders: Gourmangi Singh, Denzel Franco, Robert Lalthlamuana, Rowilson Rodrigues (all Churchill Brothers); Thokchom Naoba Singh, Gurwinder Singh (both Kingfisher East Bengal); Raju Eknath Gaikwad (Indian Arrows), Khangembam Singh (Salgaocar), Valleriano Rebello, Debabrata Roy, Sameer Naik, Mahesh Gawli (all Dempo SC); Mohanraj, Rakesh Masih (both McDowell Mohun Bagan).
Midfielders: Mehtab Hossain, Syed Rahim Nabi, Harmanjot Khabra (all Kingfisher East Bengal); Steven Dias (Churchill Brothers); Jewel Raja Sheikh, Khan Gembam Jibon Singh, Shilton D’Silva, Lalrindika Ralte (all Indian Arrows); Gilbert Oliviera, Francis Fernandes, Anthony Barbosa, Rocus Lamare, Baldeep Singh (all Salgaocar SC); Peter Carvalho, Climax Lawrence, Clifford Miranda (all Dempo SC); Xavier Vijay Kumar (HAL).
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri (Chirag United), Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indian Arrows), Joaquim Abranches (Dempo SC), C.S. Sabeeth, Anil Kumar (both Viva Kerala); Sushil Kumar Singh (Kingfisher East Bengal).