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India slip further, at 169th position

New Delhi: Three days after winning the Nehru Cup on home turf, India’s Fifa rankings slumped further putting them at the 169th spot among 206 nations.

In Asia, India are placed 32nd. And that too behind Maldives, Afghanistan and Nepal!

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel, however, put the blame on poor planning by some of his predecessors, saying reluctance to play against stronger football nations was one of the main reasons why India could not climb up the rankings ladder.

In an obvious reference to former national coach Bob Houghton, the AIFF boss said: “I don’t want to take names, but I want to place it on record that not too long ago, in the recent past, the wish and thinking was always not to play against much better-ranked teams... That’s not right… I think if we play against the better-ranked teams, the better it is for Indian football.”

Patel was speaking during a media conference to announce the signing of an agreement between the Fifa and the AIFF. Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke was present on the occasion.

Ironically, as per the Fifa rankings table, India were better placed during Houghton’s five years as the national coach. From 157 in 2006, India’s rankings in the next four years under Houghton were 143 (2007), 143 (2008), 134 (2009) and 142 (2010). After Houghton’s departure in mid-2011, India went down to 162 at the end of the calendar year.

Houghton, who coached India for five years between 2006 and 2011, was often accused of avoiding higher-ranked teams as opponents. India won two Nehru Cups under Houghton and also qualified for the Asian Cup after 24 years.

India’s Nehru Cup triumph will not add points to India’s tally in next month’s Fifa rankings.

Current national coach Wim Koevermans said after the Nehru Cup that he wanted to make use of the upcoming Fifa friendly match dates in an effort to improve India’s rankings. So far, sources said, AIFF has managed to line up only one friendly match for the senior team in near future.

“India are likely to play against Singapore in October,” said an official. “However, we are not sure whether Singapore would come to India or we have to go there,” he said.