Houghton backs Mohun Bagan’s decision to skip IFA Shield

December 23rd, 2008 - 8:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Bayern MunichNew Delhi, Dec 23 (IANS) Even as national football coach Bob Houghton Tuesday lauded Mohun Bagan’s decision to skip the century old Indian Football Association (IFA) Shield, the organisers are trying their best to find a way out. Houghton has always maintained that the I-League should be given more importance than any other local tournaments. And Federation Cup winners Mohun Bagan decided to skip the tournament so that their players get rest before the second phase of the I-League gets underway from Jan 23.

“I think it is a good move by Mohun Bagan. They have realised the importance of the national league. Look at the IFA Shield, with one team pulling out the association is now thinking what to do,” Houghton told reporters on the sidelines of the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) annual general meeting here Tuesday.

This time two editions of the Shield are being played in the same calendar year. While one edition will be in January, the other will be in June-July.

For Indian Football Association (IFA) it is now a matter of pride as the Shield has seen top overseas clubs like Bayern Munich, Palmeiras and Shaktyar taking part in it.

IFA secretary Utpal Ganguly told IANS that he has called Mohun Bagan officials for a meeting later this week to persuade them to play in the prestigious tournament.

Meanwhile, Houghton also said that the under-16, 19 and the 21 side will be crucial in India’s dream to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

“The youth teams will be crucial in realising India’s dream to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The qualifiers will start from 2015 and by that time all the three youth teams will be in right age to be a part of the national team,” he said.

The Englishman also said I-League champions Dempo, which became the first Indian club to qualify for the AFC Cup semis, has set a benchmark for other teams.

“The key to their success is that they have retained the same team for the past two-three years. Even the junior players in the team have rose through the ranks and come from the same background from Goa,” he said.

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