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Houghton opposes EPL matches in India

sports Updated: Mar 03, 2008 18:26 IST

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India football coach Bob Houghton has said he would oppose, tooth and nail, any proposal to 'export' English Premier League (EPL) to India which he feels would damage the nascent professional I-League.

Although the EPL proposal to play a 39th round of fixtures across the world, including in Asia, is unlikely to go ahead after strong opposition from FIFA and AFC, Houghton said he was horrified by the plan.

"We don't need Premier League in India, we need time to develop ... To be honest, we're fighting quite hard to keep the Premier League out of India," Houghton told the 'Observer.'

"The Premier League is responsible for the crushing of many successful leagues in Asia. In Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong, the Premier League has engulfed them.

"When Star (Sky's sister network owned by Rupert Murdoch) decided to show matches in Asia, it had to be five. It was blanket coverage, and became so big, with so many repeats, that the sponsorship became huge.

"Now, if they start playing games as well, I just can't see anything that commends it other than the possibility for the Premier League to make more money. What else could it be to do with?

"They're just marketing the Premier League. Why else are they doing it?" asked Houghton, who took over India's coach in June 2006.

The former Fulham midfielder was not upbeat about Manchester United and other EPL clubs starting youth football programmes in India.

"And as well as Manchester United, who are also running a cup competition (Manchester United Premier Cup), Everton are in India."

"But it's not doing us any favours, it's something we need to be doing ourselves," said the Englishman who had been at the helm of national teams of China and Uzbekistan, besides coaching several top clubs of Asia including Al-Itihad of Saudi Arabia," Houghton said.

Houghton cited an example of how a free entry of such EPL clubs could make undesirable impact on Indian football.

"Let me tell you something that was absolutely dreadful. Last October, Manchester United had 5,000 kids in the Nehru stadium here in Goa to select 11 boys to go Manchester for a week's training. It was horrendous, because they were all believing that they'd end, after three days of judgement, playing for United. That sort of marketing thing is in nobody's interests."

Houghton expressed his intention to stay in India "a good while longer" but would not commit on when India would qualify for the World Cup, taking recourse to his usual statement of how United States, China and Japan made the grade after a long haul.

"I coached in the first season of the MLS in America in 1996 with the Colorado Rapids. They planned then to win the World Cup in 2010. At the time people would've had a grin on their face but just before the last World Cup they were in the Fifa top seven or eight," he said.

On his J-League model for Indian professional league, Houghton repeated his stand of "concentrate on bringing on taller, bigger players."