Not many would have expected the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to announce the list of thirty probables for the Asian Cup to be held in January of 2011 in Qatar, nine months in advance.
All the boys will be a part of the national and international conditioning camps and come this June all these players will be at the disposal of manager Bob Houghton and none of them will be available for their club’s fixtures till the Asian Cup is concluded.
The entire squad will be traveling first to Portugal for a preparatory camp and then to Qatar to equip themselves with the ground conditions well in advance. After returning from these campaigns the Bhangra Boys will be playing five international friendlies (1 away and 4 home) in the month of September. Many believe that this decision of the 61 year old will be good for Indian national team as it will give ample time for the boys to gel as a unit.
Almost all of them with an exception of former Dempo SC striker Sunil Chetri (who might not be available as AIFF has still not struck a deal for his release for the national camps with his MLS club Kansas Wizards) will be available for Lisbon and then Qatar.
The Englishman at the helm of Indian Team has retained most of the players with whom he has tasted International success in the past, including two Nehru Cup triumphs and a win in the AFC Challenge Cup which paved the way for the Asian Cup for us. Along with the old warhorses some new faces have also made the cut like JCT striker Baljit Sahni. The 23 year old had earlier missed the bus to the SAFF cup after failing to recover from a motorcycle accident. Along with this young Punjabi boy; Govin Singh a defender from East Bengal and Mohammed Rafi from Mahindra United have also been selected.
The real surprise lies not in the names of the players who have made it to the list but in its timing. AIFF has received flak from quite a few corners owing to the “ill- timing” of the announcement of the list of probables. With I-League still far from being over; clubs whose players have been named in the probables list feel that this can hamper their prospects in the domestic league, as a player might not play to his full potential to prevent himself from getting injured so as to put up a good show at the international level.
Many club managers feel that with unavailability of all their senior Indian players for the major part of next season it is getting difficult for them to chart out a plan of action for the future. The international players playing in the I-league face themselves in a dilemma as they are unaware of the squad strength of the clubs and are unsure of which club to sign for the coming edition of I-League.
Also this is likely to come as a bad news for the Goan club Churchill Brothers who have already made it to the round of sixteen of the AFC Cup. Experience of defender Gouramangi Singh and goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya will be dearly missed by them if they make it to the next round which is the quarter finals.
The fact that the list of probables for national camps was released by the AIFF without taking the clubs into confidence or without having a round table conference with them seems to have infuriated the domestic clubs even more.
Also the inclusion of Sushil Kumar Singh over the crafty players like Shillong Lajong’s Sheikhohao Tuboi and last year’s I-League leading goal scorer East Bengal’s Singam Subhash Singh has raised some eyebrows.
The point which was raised a lot after this announcement was whether a player fairing well in next year’s I-League will be getting a call for the national squad or not; to which Houghton said that he has already thought of such a situation and has been tracking three-to-four players as replacement probables and if they exceed his expectations in I-League then they can surely make it to the national team camps.
Houghton says he is doing this so that India can achieve success at the international level but in doing so it seems he has rubbed many domestic clubs in the wrong way at least this time around.
The full list of thirty probables is as below:
Subrata Paul(Pune FC), Arindam Bhattacharya(Churchill Brothers) and Subhashish Roy Choudhury(Mahindra United).
Samir Naik(Dempo SC), Irungbam Surkumar Singh(Mohan Bagan), NS Manju(Mohan Bagan), Nallappan Mohanraj(Mohan Bagan), Mahesh Gawli(Dempo SC), Anwar Ali(Dempo SC), Govin Singh(East Bengal), Gouramangi Singh(Churchill Brothers), Deepak Mondal (Mohan Bagan) and Rakesh Masih(Mohan Bagan).
P.Renedy Singh(East Bengal), Syed Rahim Nabi(East Bengal), Steven Dias(Mahindra United), Anthony Pereira(Dempo SC), Climax Lawrence(Dempo SC), Clifford Miranda(Dempo SC), NP Pradeep(Mahindra United), Mehrajuddin Wadoo(East Bengal), James Singh (Mohan Bagan), Jagpreet Singh(JCT)and Baldeep Singh(JCT).
Bhaichung Bhutia (C) (East Bengal), Sunil Chhetri (Kansas Wizards), Abhishek Yadav (Mumbai FC), Baljit Sahini(JCT), Mohammed Rafi(Mahindra United) and Sushil Kumar Singh(Mahindra United).