India targets elite pool of players for Asia Cup scheme

The Indian soccer federation hopes to launch an ambitious two-year plan that will commit the country's leading players to preparations for the 2011 Asia Cup.

Written by Reuters | Mumbai | Published:March 9, 2009 2:08 pm

The Indian soccer federation hopes to launch an ambitious two-year plan that will commit the country’s leading players to preparations for the 2011 Asia Cup.

Under the proposed ‘Goal 2011’ scheme,national coach Bob Houghton will name 25 players,who will receive financial backing from the federation and be asked not to play for their clubs over the next two seasons,The Telegraph reported on Monday.

The paper added that the plan was likely to cost around 400 million rupees ($7.7 million) and has already been approved by the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) executive committee.

The final touches to the scheme will be made by the development committee,which meets on Thursday.

This is one of AIFF’s most ambitious plans ever and is likely to cause an uproar among the clubs,local associations and the sponsors,unnamed sources told the newspaper.

At the same time,the financial commitment to make the plan successful is really huge. We are not yet sure where the money will come from.

The national team has shown improved results over the last two years under British coach Houghton and secured an Asia Cup berth after clinching the AFC Challenge Cup last August.

Houghton had told the AIFF that the selected players needed to be given extensive and uninterrupted training until the Doha event,the paper said.

India,twice Asian Games champions in the 1950s,were a force in continental competitions until the end of the amateur era,but a lack of interest and the rise of cricket has seen the side slip to number 148 in the latest world rankings.

Last month,the country’s sports minister took a swipe at the team,saying schoolboys and veterans of the 1956 Olympic side could beat the current crop of internationals.

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