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…