Bob Houghton vs the AIFF: The Fate Of Indian Football Hangs In The Balance

Last week can easily be termed as a ‘black week’ for Indian football. On 30th April, the English manager of the Indian National football team – Bob Houghton – put in his papers a shocking nine months before the actual expiry date of his contact i.e. 31st January’2011.

The news of rifts between Houghton and the members of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is not new for Indian media as Bob has often criticized the AIFF of lacking professionalism.

The perennial stand-off between both the concerned parties took a particularly ugly turn last month in an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) meeting in Malaysia where Alberto Colaco, the general secretary of AIFF, allegedly told Houghton’s own agent to look for his replacements. This did not go down well with the Englishman and after his deadline of 30th April to the AIFF, to renew his contract, passed without any positive indications from the football governing body, the sixty-one year old resigned giving a three months notice along with his resignation.

Houghton was furious when he got to know that his replacements were being sought after by the AIFF once his contract gets over after next year’s Asian Cup. Houghton who reportedly pockets $ 240,000 per year as his compensation, demanded an extension of his tenure as National Team’s manager till 2013 along with an increase of $ 10,000 per month in his salary.

Bob ‘the builder’ faces AIFF’s demolition men

Bob, who is presently at his house in Cape Town, South Africa has completely refrained himself from commenting over this issue. However, Praful Patel the president of AIFF has repeatedly denied the Englishman’s resignation. Patel who saw himself at the center of Indian Premier League (IPL) controversy in mid April would love to see Houghton’s resignation saga get over soon so that his image does not take any further beating.

Members who are against Houghton have said that these are all ‘pressure tactics’ which the Indian manager is applying. According to them, the Englishman got cold feet when India was handed a difficult draw for Qatar’2011 and feared that he would receive lots of criticism for his expensive GOAL’2011 project if the Indian team failed to come up with a decent performance. India is grouped with Australia, South Korea and Bahrain in group C for the Asian Cup next year.

Another thing which has worked as a catalyst in creating differences between Houghton and the AIFF are the rumours linking Houghton to the Australian job. Houghton has allegedly been approached by Football Federation Australia (FFA) to be their National team manager after the World Cup.

A lot was expected from the Executive Committee meeting of the AIFF on 7th May but nothing significant came out of the meet. An Executive Committee member who wished to be anonymous said that none of the demands made by Houghton were discussed as they might be leaked to the media which might further worsen the current situation.

As of now, the committee has given Praful Patel complete rights to decide about Bob Houghton’s future in India football after the Asian Cup. The AIFF president will be speaking to Houghton later this month to discuss about this standoff and till then the three months notice stands.

Since he has taken over the reigns of India’s national team, Houghton has taught them how to battle and how to succeed. Under his watch, the team has become a confident unit. He has made the boys believe in their abilities and as a result, has developed the fighting spirit and the zeal to succeed in every player – something which is visible whenever the team steps onto the field.

He has been like a father figure for them since he came to the helm of Indian football in 2006 and his loss could undo all the progress made in the previous four years.

“If Bob leaves, Indian football will become zero”
-Subrata Paul, Goalkeeper

He has always stood-up against the AIFF for his players and on many occasions has given the nation of a billion-plus people a lot to cheer about through his team’s achievements on the football pitch – something which had been a rarity before his entry to Indian football.

India needs Houghton more than he needs us”
-Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Midfielder

When a manager like this resigns, the first reaction of the players will be to stand by him. All of them feel that they have grown up into a successful winning unit because of him. It would be a disaster for the team to lose him like this and attempt to settle under a new manager eight months before the Asian Cup.

“Now, we play football under Bob”
-Steven Dias, Midfielder

I sincerely hope that the AIFF is listening to the hue and cry of the players and the media. The country wants Bob ‘the Builder’ Houghton to stay. If anyone has to leave, it should be the officials heading the AIFF along with their petty politics…

  • Somnath

    Indian players always say favourable things about a coach who is about to leave. Mehrajuddin has been one of Bob’s favourite players in past, if Bob doesn’t stay, there’s no chance that he will get a call-up in NT. Especially given the fact, that Dempo’s all indian backline has been a revelation this season.

    Why can’t we have someone like Armando Colaco or Sukhwinder Singh as coach of NT?

  • @Somnath: Please! Lets continue with a Brit coach. Indian coaches can’t be hard enough with our boys! It won’t help our cause for the big tournament in 2011.

    I dont know what happens inside AIFF, I dont know how AIFF functions, what I know is, Bob has done a good job and shud be allowed to take this team to the Asian Cup. That shud be his deadline/target. After that, you can sack him or whatever!

  • redNblack_blood

    y sack him at all???????? he has been fantastic.. he has taught them how to win?

  • Somnath

    I can’t understand all the hype about “improvement”. Has Houghton brought any change to how football is played by NT ? No. Has he given chance to any new faces ? No. He actually tried to persuade Baichung not to retire.

    He sits in Goa all year & rarely comes to watch the NT players play for their clubs. He wants clubs to not participate in tournaments like Shield & Durand Cup. He actually anted Dempo to release players for a meaningless camp, when they had an important AFC Cup game. How is Dempo doing well in AFC Cup not good for Indian football?

    Under Stephen Constantine India won a LG Cup even that was deemed as an “improvement”.

  • redNblack_blood

    @ Somnath–I’ve seen them play in person and believe me there is a big improvement in the body language of our team if one compares 2007 to 2009. Dempo finds themselves in a tough spot agreed but qatar’2011 is going to be the biggest tournament for our national team in the last 27 yrs, so i am with Bob on this. Also correct me if i am wrong- it was on the “NT” Barcelona camp that Chetri was spotted by the Wizards…… instead of finding the obvious faults with the administration your blaming the manager who has provided results every time he has taken our team to the field…… your critisism for the Englishman over the AIFF baffles me………….

  • Somnath

    You are getting me all wrong. I am not criticizing Houghton, I am just curious about the mythical improvement people keep talking about. Under Constantine we won a Int’l tournament, our first in years. That was improvement, no I don’t consider success in SAF games as a benchmark.

    My question remains unanswered, has he brought new faces to the team ?

    I am not blaming Houghton, but I won’t laud him just because he is English or he has reached a European Cup final. Putting a foreign coach on the top of the pile will not make a difference in long run. He will not make any changes in the root level, which needs change.

    Why can’t we have an Indian coach who understands Indian football better ?

  • Somnath

    Also tell me, how does a coach judge players just by sitting in one place for the whole year ? Especially in a country where the half the games are not telecasted.

  • redNblack_blood

    a single person cant be present everywhere.. thats where his entire team comes into play. And cleansing the administration is the main task in our hand agreed but our team has faired well (winning Nehru cup twice, and qualifying for Asian cup by winning AFC championship) {mind you these are way better then SARCC games}in spite of the politics persisting at the grass root level (for this also MS Gill has tried to take some steps recently so lets wait and see how this unravels )…. if u wanna know about new faces well then there is JCT’s Baljit Sahni, Govin Singh from East Bengal and Mohammed Rafi from Mahindra United … also if u go through link given below it might help.
    http://www.thehardtackle.com/index.php/mission-qatar11-squad-of-thirty-announced-too-soon