English clubs are a menace for Indian football, says coach Houghton

June 28th, 2008 - 10:14 am ICT by IANS  

By Abhishek Roy
New Delhi, June 28 (IANS) India’s chief coach Bob Houghton believes the overseas clubs are a “menace” for Indian football as their so-called talent hunt programmes will take the country nowhere. English Premier League clubs Arsenal and Manchester United have initiated their talent hunt schemes in India, while Chelsea have tied up with the Vision India programme of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

The 60-year-old Englishman, who started his playing career as a midfielder for English club Fulham, is critical of such programmes and says he is totally opposed to the clubs’ using football as an excuse to make forays into the Indian market.

“Do you really believe these clubs are hunting for talent in India? They are actually hunting India and are a menace for Indian football. They are doing nothing for the sport, all this is a money-making racket, nothing more than a marketing gimmick,” Houghton told IANS here.

“I told some of the sponsors of these programmes that they cannot hope to get Indians to play for Manchester United or Arsenal,” he added.

Houghton went on to add that such programmes are just eyewash because no English club can sign a foreign player under the age of 16.

“So if you think that a 12-year-old or a 13-year-old will go and play and get spotted by Manchester United, you are in a fool’s paradise. As for a player over the age of 16, he has a chance but then he should have played 75 percent of his international matches in the preceding two years. That means he should have played for India at 14 and then only can he apply for a work permit.

“But getting the work permit is not the issue. They can easily go to places like Leicester and Birmingham, where there is a huge concentration of Indians. But the Professional Football Association will oppose their recruitment on the ground that there are better players in England than the chosen Indians,” he said.

Houghton said that it is also not possible to restrain these talent hunt programmes.

“It is a purely business proposition and the people associated with it realise it. Do you seriously think that Chelsea and Manchester United consider India a great place for talent?” he asked.

The Englishman also took a swipe at the huge amount of money spent by a private company in organising an exhibition match between German giants Bayern Munich and Mohun Bagan last month. Bengal Peerless had sunk Rs.100-150 million to organise the match, which was also legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn’s farewell match.

“Do you think Bayern Munich played against Mohun Bagan because they love India or Indian football? You got to be joking if you think that. They played in India because they were paid an obscene sum of money.

“It was a total waste of money. If they had spent that amount on developing the youth teams, Indian football would have been better off. But they stuffed a couple of million dollars in the pockets of those filthy rich German players,” Houghton said.

He said that Indian football administrators could learn a lesson from their American counterparts in marketing the game.

“We can do what the Americans did, because somewhere we can draw a parallel between the two countries. They thought of winning the 2010 World Cup and they might do it as well. And for that they started the preparations from 1992. They were awarded the World Cup in 1994 and from the huge profits they made out of it they developed the sport. This shows how long it takes for a country to prepare for a World Cup,” he said.

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