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Players rue decline in standards
- Poor planning blamed for Santosh Trophy fiasco

Guwahati, June 27: With chief minister and Assam Olympic Association (AOA) president Tarun Gogoi openly lamenting the decline in the standard of football and the Assam Football Association (AFA) constituting a panel to review the standard of performance, footballers and organisers said “poor planning” during preparation of squads was to be blamed for the decline.

Several footballers and organisers said the policy making in the AFA was lately becoming “too centralised,” with the top brass “ignoring people with proper knowledge.”.

Citing instances, the organisers pointed at the preparation of the state squad for the recent Santosh Trophy tournament.

The recruitment of outstation coaches and the organisation of an exposure tour failed to yield the desired result.

The players and organisers felt the team would have performed better had a local coach trained them from the very beginning “as he would have been familiar with the players, helping him to build a better strategy.”

National coach Shankar Moitra was training the probables in Silchar and when he had to leave for national duty, Chirag United coach Anjan Nath was handed over the squad just a few days before the tournament.

AFA secretary Ankur Dutta, however, dismissed the allegation saying that “each and every decision we have taken regarding the development of football and preparation of teams have always been collective ones of the governing body”.

“It is never centralised. We have always incorporated everyone available in all sorts of policy making. The Santosh Trophy team preparation process was also chalked out after consulting every technical expert. It’s a different matter that the team could not deliver the desired result owing to certain constraints like unavailability of players,” Dutta said.

“We have also engaged technical people only to review the standard of performance and to suggest remedial measures. We are very serious about the Santosh Trophy because we want to groom the first squad of the state to lift the prestigious title,” he added.

Last Saturday, Gogoi had taken special note of the fact that defending champions Assam did not qualify for the 34th National Games in Jharkhand, having been eliminated from the group league stage in the Santosh Trophy tournament in Jammu and Kashmir recently.

The AFA secretary said the paucity of players in the state was one of the prime factors for the declining standard and the clubs would have to “invest more in grooming players”.

“It is of no use grooming outstation players in our clubs because the professionals represent their respe- ctive states in the Santosh Trophy. We need to groom local players so that we can the get their service for the Santosh Trophy and other major tournaments,” Dutta suggested.

“Everything was going well under Moitra. We were in the soup when he had to leave for national duty and we decided to engage Anjan Nath so that he could help us in the exposure tour.”

When it was pointed out that a section of players and organisers felt that the exposure tour could have been better had it been to Manipur, Mizoram or Meghalaya, instead of Calcutta or Dhaka, Dutta said it was arranged to “psychologically prepare an inexperienced batch of players”.

“They got the exposure playing teams like Mohun Bagan in Calcutta which helped them mentally prepare to face bigger na- mes in the Santosh Trophy tournament,” the AFA secretary said.

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