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'India my toughest job in 40 years'

sports Updated: Jan 15, 2011 19:12 IST

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Experienced Englishman Bob Houghton said on Saturday that coaching India was his toughest assignment in 40 years on the job, a day after his side were hammered 5-2 by Bahrain and knocked out of the Asian Cup.

The 63-year-old, whose long coaching career spanning four continents saw him take Swedish club Malmo to the 1979 European Cup final, said: "I've enjoyed all the different coaching jobs I've had, but this is the toughest one."

Houghton has also had spells as coach of China -- where he also managed several club sides -- and Uzbekistan, and worked in Saudi Arabia. He started in football management in English non-league football.

"There's an inertia in India that makes it very difficult to get things moving," he said. "We can't progress without the football infrastructure, but it all seems to take a long time."

Underlining the daunting task he faces, Houghton's side were thrashed 4-0 in their opening Asian Cup game, against Australia, and they face an equally stiff task against South Korea on Tuesday.

It is the developing country's first Asian Cup appearance since 1984, but Houghton -- who has been in the job since June 2006 -- hopes better times are ahead with new officials heading the game in India.

"Hopefully we can get some infrastructure built, which is key for us to move the game forward," he said, referring to issues including the lack of modern stadiums, training facilities and organised youth teams.

Despite having the world's second-biggest population at 1.2 billion people, India, where cricket is the main sport, has remained a footballing minnow.

They are ranked 144 in the FIFA rankings, on a par with St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the Caribbean, which has a population of just over 100,000.