Hopes pinned on Houghton
Lovejoy is also content with the number of viewers tuning it, especially as they continue to grow in number, helping Zee to catch up with their competitors who show football from the major foreign leagues. ?My generation has finally discovered football,” explains Mayanti Langer. “There is still a dearth of Information on Indian football, but soon the media coverage will be as big as it is in Kolkata, where players are treated like stars.”
Langer has nothing but praise for the appointment of Englishman Bob Houghton as national coach back in 2006. “Indian football has been neglected at club and international level for so long, so there are great hopes on Houghton’s shoulders,” continues Langer.
Houghton is a coach who has enjoyed success in the past, most notably with Swedish club Malmo, but he is also a man with experience of working in Asia having previously coached another Asian giant, China. Ankur Dutta, the Vice-President of the AIFF and the IFA, believes that India will pose more of a challenge for Houghton. “All of the steps we have taken with regard to the national team have been positive ones, from scouting talent right down to creating regional training centers. But that will not be enough. Our planning is a little too short-sighted for my taste. We should be recruiting and training 10- to 12-year-olds. If we were to do that, we would achieve something over the medium- and long-term,” says Dutta.
India’s glory days in football came within ten years of the country being accepted as a member of FIFA back in 1948. The national team promptly qualified for the FIFA World Cup TM two years later, but they decided not to travel to Brazil as the regulations did not allow them to play in bare feet. Six years later they finished fourth in the Olympic Football Tournament in Melbourne, but today India can only dream of repeating such a feat.