Indian players more confident after I took over: Houghton

October 17th, 2008 - 1:58 am ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Oct 17 (IANS) India’s soccer coach Bob Houghton Thursday claimed that the confidence of team has gone up since he took over in 2006. He has also drawn up a two-year plan for the national team with an eye on the Asia Cup in January 2011.Houghton, who met coaches of the three big clubs - East Bengal, Mohun Bagana and Mohammedan Sporting - Thursday, said the national team needed to succeed first for Indian soccer to make a mark.

“On the other hand, the I-League has to be the premier tournament and very competitive. The two must go hand in hand.” said the coach, who is set to renew his contract next week.

Houghton said from next year, I-League would start in May with 14 teams and continue till September.

The Nehru Cup would be staged in August, with Houghton pondering over suggesting to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) that Australia and Japan under-23 teams be invited for the event.

The Briton said India have got an invitation from Thailand for the King’s Cup where Denmark are likely to play. “We also have an invitation from the UAE”.

Houghton felt India should now play regularly against Asian teams ranked between seven and 20 which would help the side improve its rankings.

Houghton has also suggested that I-League matches be played in the weekends and the state league matches on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa, East Bengal coach Stanley Rozario and Mohammedan Sporting coach Sabbir Ali agreed with Hughton’s plans.

“Everybody will approve this unless he is a real traditionalist or has vested interests because this is the calendar the world follows.

Houghton said the calender needed to keep some space for the FIFA tournaments, and ensure there wss not much gap between national team camps.

Houghton has also prepared a blueprint for the Indian Olympic team keeping in mind the next edition of the quadrennial extravaganza in 2012.

“We have to strike a right and balance. We don’t want it go the IPL way. In England, 70 percent of the sponsorship money goes straight to the players. Here, it’s not possible at the moment because we don’t have that many sponsors”.

Houghton thought inviting teams like Bayern Munich to play an exhibition match would not do any good to Indian soccer.

“That sponsorship money will be better served if they build a couple grounds with synthetic grass.”

Houghton predicted that within two years, the national team could include eight to nine Punjab players and said Dempo Sports Club had a good chance to make it to the summit clash in the AFC Cup.

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