AIFF has no choice but to renew Houghton’s contract

Posted by on May 6th, 2010 and filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

New Delhi, May 6 (IANS) With key India players headed by skipper Bhaichung Bhutia publicly supporting chief coach Bob Houghton, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) can do little except reject the Englishman’s resignation and extend his tenure beyond the Asian Cup in January.

The AIFF executive committee is meeting here Friday to assess the situation following Houghton’s resignation in a huff after he learnt that AIFF secretary-general Alberto Colaco had sounded an agent in Malaysia to find a new coach for the national team.

Some influential executive committee members, who feel that the issue has been handled rather unprofessionally, are also unhappy at the way the AIFF top brass allowed Mahindra United to disband its team without making an attempt to prevent it.

They say both these developments could not have happened at a more inopportune time than now when the Asian Cup is barely eight months away.

‘Instead of helping the national team prepare for the Asia Cup, in which India are clubbed with strong regional sides Australia, South Korea and Bahrain, the AIFF management is busy digging trenches behind Houghton,’ said a senior executive committee member, not wanting to be named.

Houghton was livid when he spoke to IANS from his base in Cape Town Monday to confirm that he had indeed resigned. He sounded hurt that the AIFF was looking for his successor after he expressed his willingness to renew his contract for at least two more years after the present one expires in January.

AIFF chief and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel asked him to reconsider his decision and invited him to sort out the problem face to face instead of through emails and telephonic conversations.

Patel held informal discussions with the executive members on the eve of the meeting in a bid to smoothen the ruffled feathers as some of them made no secret of their dislike for Colaco for the way he has been running the federation despite being secretary general for a decade.

‘I think Mr. Patel should fix responsibility for the ham-handed manner in which the Houghton issue was handled and a lot of questions need to be answered at the meeting,’ said the official.

‘The AIFF is going through one of its worst phases. Someone should be held responsible for the way things have happened, first the Mahindra bombshell and then the Houghton howler,’ he added.

‘Colaco will have to explain why teams are unhappy and want to close shop as he is the chairman of the I-League. Some other teams are threatening to go the Mahindra way and the trend has to be bucked. Then, why was Houghton’s contract renewal kept in abeyance when he was willing to extend it? Who authorised Colaco to look for another coach?’ the official said.

Even former players have come out in support of Houghton, saying Houghton should not be allowed to go before the Asia Cup and, in fact, he should be given a fresh contract.

Olympian S.S.Hakeem said: ‘Pandit Nehru once said that technical manpower in a nation counts much more than gold, silver and money, and Rahim saab (legendary coach) used to say let football be handled by footballers.’

‘Without going into the achievements of Houghton, I should say that the coach is the most important part of the system. For me, Houghton’s biggest achievement is not India winning back-to-back Nehru Cup titles, but taking the team to the Asian Cup finals.’

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