Bob Houghton’s big bother


India’s national coach is not happy with the way club football is shaping up in the country. He wants the domestic calendar to be pruned.

India’s football coach Bob Houghton seems to be weighed down by his assignment. “I have nothing to say,” is all that he has to declare to the media, which was seeking an update on the progress of the Indian team. The Englishman, assigned the task of pulling Indian football out of the rut, is finding it difficult to make any progress. It has been almost two years — June 2006 to be precise — since he took up the challenge of reviving Indian foot ball, which in its glory days boasted two Asian Games gold medals.

The Nehru Cup triumph in August 2007 brought some hope, but Houghton is not happy with the way club football is shaping up in the country.

Houghton was forthright on issues dogging Indian football. He was of the view that the domestic calendar needs to be pruned. “All tournaments barring the I-League and the Federation Cup are irrelevant,” he said.

Houghton’s comments, ironically, came during the IFA Shield opener at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, where he was an invitee.

Ever since he took over as the national coach, Houghton had been stressing on the need to have players with good physique in the Indian team. He said the initial J-League (Japan League) model of recruiting a few players with superior build and height holds good for India too.

The coach was also unhappy about some clubs, especially the ones in Kolkata, not giving enough opportunity to young players. “Mohun Bagan has signed eight players from the Tata Football Academy. I am worried about the opportunity they would get because the Kolkata teams want their top players to play in both the domestic and I-League,” he said.

Houghton also underscored the need to keep foreign players away from club competitions in order to allow the home talent to flourish.

* * * A boon for HCA

The huge sums of money generated by the Indian Premier League have not only benefited the players but have also come as a boon to the Hyderabad Cricket Association which will be staging at least seven matches under floodlights at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium.


The HCA will be paid a mind-boggling Rs.10 crore for hosting the seven matches of the IPL, featuring the big guns of world cricket alongside a sprinkling of domestic and local talent. “We should be paid about Rs. 10 crore at the end of the first leg of the IPL in April. And it is for this year. It may keep increasing,” said a delighted N. Shivlal Yadav (in pic), secretary of the HCA. “And there are no strings attached to it,” he added.

The HCA will have no role to play in the organisation of the event. That will be completely handled by the IPL, thus saving the state body a lot of problems. “We have no say either in pricing of the tickets or any aspect regarding the conduct of the matches. Our job is just to hand over the venue to the IPL,” said Shivlal.

About installation of floodlights at the stadium, the HCA secretary said that they would be in place soon, after which the association will conduct some trial matches to test the lighting.

* * * Of Winners and banners

The Jagatpura Shooting Range in Jaipur, Rajasthan, which hosted the Asian Clay Shooting Championship, was world class. Set against the backdrop of mountain ranges, the range made for a pleasant sight.

The facility is still under construction, and once the work is over it will have provision for indoor polo and archery. Thanks to the keen interest shown by Rajasthan’s sports-loving Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, the complex will be a big boon for shooting, polo and archery.

Though the construction work struck a jarring note, the Jaipur Development Authority thoughtfully placed huge banners of Dr. Karni Singh, the World Championship silver medallist, and Rajyavardhan Singh, the Olympic silver medallist, at the range in appropriate fashion, apart from other banners of the event with its mascot.

However, it was surprising to see a huge banner of Suma Shirur (in pic) in front of the indoor rifle and pistol range, while world champion Abhinav Bindra, Anjali Bhagwat and the evergreen Jaspal Rana, who struck three gold medals at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, were forgotten.

It became all too evident when one learnt that Suma’s husband, Siddharth Shirur, was responsible for designing the range.

But then, before one jumps to any conclusion, it will be appropriate to mention that Suma is the only Indian shooter to have a world record against her name. She shot 400 out of 400 while winning the Asian air rifle gold in 2004.

And what is really significant about the record is that it can never be broken!

By Kamesh Srinivasan, Amitabha Das Sharma & V.V. Subrahmanyam