Stating that India did reasonably well in the Asian Cup, head of delegation Larsing Ming Sawyan backed the long-term preparation for the event and said persisting with Bhaichung Bhutia despite a calf injury was justified.
"The most positive factor was that we were not disgraced. Credit to the players for that, especially considering that they had a few injuries and miserable results in the friendlies prior to the Asian Cup. Australia and South Korea are the top two teams in Asia and Bahrain are not far behind, so, given the huge gap in football pedigree, I think India did reasonably well," Sawyan told HT over the phone from Shillong.
He also termed the All India Football Federation (AIFF) backing coach Bob Houghton's plan to keep the squad together for eight months and pay them as a bold initiative.
"It was a bit like pitting those denied the right to education against graduates from a top-line management institute. You must take them through some kind of accelerated programme. Living in India, we tend to be insulated from how the football world runs, be it in Australia, Japan or Qatar. Therefore, if you spend a few crores (approximately R 15 crore was spent in India's Asian Cup programme) to prepare, I think it's worth it.
"However, if we need to do this five years from now, then we would have failed."
Sawyan, the general secretary at Shillong Lajong FC, also backed Houghton trying to get Bhutia fit till the last possible minute.
The Asian Cup, he said, showed that India have a lot of catching up to do. "Considering everything like the difference in facilities, coaching techniques, the strength of domestic leagues, our team didn't do badly. But now we have to build on this. Build a new generation of India footballers."