It was the last training session before the Sunday rest day for the Indian football team at the Ambedkar Stadium here, and there seemed to be an extra spring in the team's steps. The session started with warm-up, stretching and close-control drills, with the coaching staff watching like hawks.
Apart from some key players, including captain Bhaichung Bhutia, out injured, the rest of the squad looked sharp. After the session, coach Bob Houghton was pleased with the way things are going. “Progress has been great, and apart from the fact that we are picking up too many injuries, things are going well,” he says.
But there have been plenty of problems. Because the stadium is owned by the MCD, maintenance of the ground has been a huge problem. So has the match practice. “We were to play 8-10 games here in September, but we only got two because it is so hard to get teams to play here. And we aren't in a position to pay.”
And how does he feel about having to move out of Delhi because of the Games? “We knew it would happen. We will be practicing here till the 28th and then move to Pune because there are no other grounds in the country.”
The bizarre part is that though the AIFF was forced to cancel a match on Sept 19, they will be allowed to practice here till the end on the month.