Houghton urges Chhetri to play in Spain, Italy

Chhetri signed a three-year contract with English Championships side Queens Park Rangers but will not be able to play for that club as he has been denied work permit by the British government.

“England is a great place to play football but for that you need your country to be among top 70 in FIFA chart and you should have played 75 per cent of your national team matches in the last 24 months. Sunil satisfied the latter criterion but not the first,” Houghton said.

“Sunil appealed and a committee comprising three players and three bureaucrats ruled against him,” he added. Houghton said since India are low in FIFA rankings, Chhetri can now think of playing in other European countries like Italy and Spain.

“Manchester United had a sister club in Belgium (Royal Antwerp) and Chhetri can think of playing in clubs like that. I remember Chinese players play in European countries other than England first for two years and then apply for English professional league. Sunil can do that and that is the option,” said the Englishman at the launch of Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy for National Sub-Junior championships.

Meanwhile, Houghton was livid that the national team players had to fly down to Kolkata to play for their respective clubs in the IFA Shield on Wednesday morning after defending Nehru Cup title.

Players from Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers and Mahindra United had left for Kolkata early on Tuesday morning and Houghton said it reflects poorly on the professionalism of Indian football. “I was told this morning that some players are taking early morning flight for Kolkata to play in the IFA Shield. They had just played in a tough international tournament and they would be playing in a domestic tournament next day.

I could not understand and asked (Alberto Colaco) is that serious.”
When told such things have been happening, he said, “It seems so.” The Englishman wondered why state associations were in the decision-making process of running a professional league. “The professional league in India should be run by the AIFF and states should work on the youth and grassroot developments.”

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