Foreign flavour at Durand Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> In just a couple of days, Bob Houghton faces arguably his toughest task as the Indian football coach.

Updated: October 28, 2007 08:06 IST
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New Delhi:

In just a couple of days, Bob Houghton faces arguably his toughest task as the Indian football coach, with his team needing to beat Lebanon by three goals, in order to proceed to the next round of the world cup qualifiers.

Now Bob Houghton isn't the only foreign football coach who's in the hot seat at the moment.

Former Nigerian stars who plied their trade as players in India, like Chima Okorie and Bernard Operanozie, feature prominently in the ongoing Durand Cup, but this time as coaches.

Bernard Oparanozie is a Nigerian and coaches Hindustan Football Club.

He has played for many Indian clubs and also with Cheema, Baichung, and two foreign coaches in Durand Cup and is the first foreign coach for Hindustan FC.

If your national football team has once been the fifth best in the world, and is currently ranked above the likes of Turkey and Denmark, why would you want to associate yourself with Indian football of all things? Maybe this is why!

"What happens is, in India, you guys export IT professionals, from Nigeria we export footballers," said Bernard Oparanozie, Coach, Hindustan Football Club.

It's been a month since Nigeria's Bernard Oparanozie has taken charge of Delhi's Hindustan Football Club.

He follows in the footsteps of fellow Nigerian Cheema Okerie who leads the New Delhi heroes.

Bernard has played for many Indian clubs including Mohun Bagan, JCT and Mahindra. And here's something that Indian coaches might want to listen to.

"Indian coaches, I think they're not the strictest with discipline and plus you have to do with what you have, I don't believe in big players or small players, I believe in my team," said Bernard Oparanozie.

Oparanozie has been in India for 18 years now, and he is too aware that the only sport that seems to count in India is cricket.

And while one off successes like the Nehru Cup will help renew interest in the game, the fact remains that football is still treated like a poor cousin.

So who can make the difference? Who needs to pull up their socks?

"The administrators, I hope I don't lose my job for this because they just have to be more professional," said Bernard.

Roping in foreign coaches is a part of rejuvenating the football scene in Delhi.

It aims at introducing professionalism at a domestic level. And it's showing it is effects already.

Well, at least coach Bernard seems to think so. His boys seem to have got the message, missing practice sessions, means missing the big games.

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