Chhetri should have skipped Santosh Trophy: Houghton

Sunil Chhetri's appearance in the Santosh Trophy was unnecessary and it may cost him a place in the 20-member Indian for the Nehru Cup, Bob Houghton said.

updated: August 14, 2009 10:07 IST
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New Delhi:

Star Striker Sunil Chhetri's appearance in the Santosh Trophy in May was unnecessary which may cost him a place in the 20-member Indian squad for the upcoming Nehru Cup international football tournament here, national coach Bob Houghton said on Friday.

Addressing a press conference to announce the draw of the five-nation tournament to be held from August 19-31, Houghton said national players should play only in the I-League (and Federation Cup) and clubs should give proper treatment to players when injured.

"Sunil's involvement in the Santosh Trophy in Chennai was unnecessary. That has contributed to the situation that he might miss the Nehru Cup which has become an important tournament for the country," Houghton said.

"The country needs to change its mindset to professionalism. No national player should play in domestic tournaments other than I-League," he added.

Chhetri injured his right ankle in an I-League match for East Bengal in Mumbai. He later aggravated his injury while playing a Santosh Trophy match for Delhi in Chennai in late May.

"When a player gets injured, the club should diagnose it properly and give treatment as well as do proper follow up till he is fit again," the coach said, while also disapproving midfielder Climax Lawrence playing for Goa in the Santosh Trophy.

Houghton, however, refused to rule out Chhetri for the Nehru Cup though Subhash Singh has joined the training camp at Gurgaon as cover for the Delhi striker.

"I don't know whether Sunil will miss the Nehru Cup. As of now I can say he is doubtful. He took part in full training yesterday and he looked quite good. There was no effect of yesterday's training on him this morning also.

"We have to look a little longer whether he (Chhetri) will able to play or not, till a 20-man squad is announced on August 18," he said.

Giving an indication that some of the senior players in the national squad will make way for youngsters by the time of 2011 Asian Cup, Houghton said a few of Under-19 India players and others like Subhash Singh will be in contention for the prestigious AFC tournament in Doha, Qatar.

"Of course, the current Under-19 players will be in contention for the 2011 India squad," Houghton said to a specific query.

"Whether or not Subhash makes the Nehru Cup squad is not an issue. He (Subhash) is a very good player and I am sure he will be staking claim for a place in the 2011 Asian Cup squad," he added.

On Sushil Singh, who is suffering from a stiffness on his legs, Houghton said, "Sushil had a minor injury in Barcelona but it seemed it was all right. But after returning from Spain he had some stiffness on his legs so we have called up Subhash Singh."