India clubs ignore Houghton request to rest stars

January 5, 2009

India's leading league clubs have ignored a plea from national coach Bob Houghton to rest players from some matches to keep them fresh for internationals.

The Briton is building a squad for the 2011 Asian Cup finals in Qatar and has asked clubs to omit internationals from fixtures outside the I-League, The Telegraph reported on Monday.

"If the national team does not perform well, spectators and sponsors will not want to be associated with the game," he told a meeting with club coaches, the paper said.

However, the coaches said they were under pressure to deliver results and the federation needed to implement a rule for Houghton's plan to work, the paper added, quoting unnamed sources.

Since taking charge in June 2006, the 61-year-old Houghton has persuaded I-League clubs to offer greater support to the national team, which has led to improved results.

In 2007, India hosted and won an international tournament before going on to clinch the AFC Challenge Cup last August, a victory that secured an Asian Cup berth.

Ranked 20th in Asia, India's next match is a friendly in Hong Kong on January 14.