Houghton questions IFA Shield timing

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Kolkata, Feb 27 (UNI) Questioning the timing of organising the IFA Shield after the I-league, national football coach Bob Houghton said tournaments like these should be in the pre-season calendar to help the teams prepare for I-League.

Talking to the media here today, he said, '' Holding the IFA Shield now is of no use. It should be held before the season starts. It will help the clubs to prepare for I-league. It should have mostly the second string of players to give the clubs an assessment of their bench strength. '' ''I consider I-League and Federation Cup to be the two most important tournaments in the country. So the other tournament should be slated to give maximum priority to these two. I agree with Baichung Bhutia, who criticised holding of the tournament now,'' Houghton said.

Baichung Bhutia, too, criticised the holding of IFA Shield now, calling it a 'waste of time'.

''With so many club tournaments here, it is very difficult for the national side to excel,'' Houghton added.

Bob once again reiterated the importance of tall players in the national team.

He said the academies should have a 30 per cent reservation for tall players. It is very important and countries that have done it have gone on to the next level.

''India can do it or never play World Cup like many of their South Asian counterparts,'' he said.

Asked about the lack of strikers, he said, ''The clubs are responsible for this. When the homespun strikers, except Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chetri, are not regulars in their own teams, what do you except. A very good example would be Manjit Singh.'' He said Saudi Arabia stopped bringing in foreign strikers between 1984-89 and developed their side. They showed their dominance in Asian soccer in the 1990s and playing in the World Cup.

He said the national team would go to play in Portugal as preparation for AFC Challenge Cup. ''I would want the AFC Challenge Cup to be played Delhi as we had a vociferous crowd in Nehru stadium.'' The 2008 AFC Challenge Cup football tournament will be hosted by India from July 30 to August 10, 2008, after Chinese Taipei could not guarantee the standard of AFC.

UNI BA SJC RAR HS1940

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