What’s Next For Indian Football?

Indian Football

Indian Football

After Bob Houghton parted ways with the Indian football, questions have been raised whether such a step will better things for football India. Is it a step backward after the exit of Houghton? Bob Houghton served as the coach of India for 5 long years, before he announced his departure earlier this month.

Houghton, former English manager and a player, was appointed as the head coach of India in 2006 by All India Football Federation (AIFF). Bob’s appointment shaped the Indian football in the right direction. His appointment proved to be a blessing for the team. The players never looked so comfortable, the confidence was at its peak and the team seemed utterly in a good shape. The Englishman played a key role in improving the football in the country. The team’s performance saw general progress and soon India started tasting some glorious moments and achievements under Bob.

Under Houghton, the players started believing in themselves regained their lost confidence. Subrata Paul, India’s current goalkeeper had a tough time during his East Bengal days, but Houghton insisted that Subrata is still the best goalkeeper in the country. Subrata repaid the faith shown in him, by displaying a world class performance in the 2009 Nehru Cup Triumph. India could have suffered a major setback, when Indian Captain, Bhaichung Bhutia announced his retirement. But because of Bob, Bhutia decided to rejoin the team. Since then both contributed effectively for India’s success. India finally started experiencing glories. Some of the achievements under the tenure of Houghton will always be cherished.


Under Houghton, India were crowned as the Nehru Cup Champions in 2007. Soon in 2008 Houghton led India to AFC Challenge title, beating Tajikistan 4-1 in the finals, which gave India a berth in the 2011 Asian cup in Doha. India had not competed in any of the Asia’s big competitions since 1984, but finally the dream of playing the Asian cup was fulfilled. In 2009, India once again was crowned as Nehru Cup Champions, beating Syria in the finals. India won the cup for the second time in a row. Another big achievement under the tenure of Houghton, was the triumph of 2012 AFC Challenge Cup Qualifying group where they were placed in a tricky group. But the team looked vibrant and strong and emerged as the top team.


It was indeed disgraceful that more than the achievements, it was the controversies that always gripped the Indian football. Bob Houghton was not a popular man among the former Indian coaches who constantly criticized the Englishman. Bob Houghton demanded foreign trips for the team, to help the players adapt to international conditions and play against some experienced sides. This led to more criticism as they former coaches were of the view that, they were not provided such facilities during their tenure. Bob was also criticized for not getting the desired results even after getting the required facilities.

One of Bob’s chief critics Nayeemuddin, the former Indian International felt that Bob is acting like he is main head of the AIFF. He said that the Englishman took decisions on players participating in prestigious tournament like Santosh Trophy. Houghton never really paid attention to such remarks, but in 2009 he quoted “Professionals playing Santosh Trophy against a bunch of amateurs at the end of the season don’t make any sense. Do you believe Steven Gerrard will play for some hotchpotch trophy at the end of the season?

He further added “”If you are playing these tournaments then do not ask why the national team does not qualify for major tournaments and why we are 147th in the world. You can remove the coach and you can bring Guus Hiddink or Jose Mourinho tomorrow and you will still be (ranked) 140.”

The relation between the Indian Coach and AIFF never looked pleasant. Bob strongly criticised about the facilities and infrastructure provided to the team. Back in 2009 Bob stated “After three years of being here, I don’t think the game has moved forward very quickly. We don’t see the whole picture, not just the AIFF but the general football body, about the standard we need to achieve.”

“I remember the Sports Minister saying this Indian team would lose even to an Australian school team. I don’t know what prompted him to say that but I feel, instead of being cynical he should have asked himself why the facilities aren’t there.”

His comments further stated that “In India, players have been let down by their federation (AIFF) because there is no infrastructure, no development programmes and very poor coaches.”

Racism Allegations

From all of the controversies, this one was indeed the biggest. Bob was alleged with racism comments against the referee Dinesh Nair in India’s 3-6 defeat against Yemen in an International Friendly. However no action was taking against Bob, but the team manager Pradip Chowdhury later favoured the referee. No action was taken though.

However, Houghton had also replied to the show cause in presence of his lawyer Anish Dayal. But soon it was learnt that the Indian FA would only drop the racism charges if Houghton would quit his job.

However Houghton resigned as the coach of India, citing personal issues, but it was crystal clear that the Englishman was forced to quit, using racism allegations as their primary weapon.

Thank You Bob

Though, Bob is no longer a part of Indian football, yet he will continue to be the hero among the players and the fans across the country. Bob Houghton paved the way for success and established a vibrant, energetic and a confident Indian team. Players like Sunil Chetri, Bhaichung Bhutia always supported Bob and felt exceptionally unhappy at Bob’s exit. N. P. Pradeep and Jaoquim Abranches have also shown displeasure against the AIFF. However, it is time that the team and players move forward and look to step at a higher stage and make the whole of India proud.

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Ankur Shukla


Hello to each and every sports lover out there. I am Ankur Shukla from Mumbai, 20. I currently appeared for my graduation exams i.e. Bachelor of commerce and economics from Mithibhai Motiram Kundani. I am a sports freak, cricket and football being my first love. I cannot really differentiate between the two. I am an aspiring journalist, a sports journalist. Sports have always been my first love and will continue to be for the rest of my life. Sports always attracted me. It is just within me. I always try to gain knowledge and update myself about recent happening in the sports world. Even before my exams had started, I started working on my writing skills and to my surprise I realised I was pretty decent in it. I was looking for some internship programme where I could sharpen and improve my knowledge and skills. I would really like to thank Sports Mirror for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I am really thankful for the faith they have shown in me, and I promise that I will make the most of this opportunity and contribute in the most effective manner.


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