Experienced Englishman Bob Houghton's tumultuous yet productive five-year stint as Indian football coach came to an end on Saturday in controversial circumstances after a bitter stand-off with the AIFF, which had charged him for racially abusing an Indian referee.
Houghton, who has been facing an inquiry from a three-man AIFF panel on charges of racially abusing Indian referee Dinesh Nair in an international friendly against Yemen last year, today tendered his resignation, bringing an end to his eventful association with Indian football since June 2006.
A release from the AIFF said that the racial abuse charges against Houghton has been dropped in the absence of evidence while the coach has decided to quit due to personal reasons.
"The AIFF has perused the reply filed by Robert Douglas Houghton to the show cause notice dated 25.03.2011 issued to him. It has also conducted internal investigations through an inquiry committee and a report has been submitted to the AIFF.
"Based on the report of the inquiry committee, the AIFF feels that in the absence of any definitive and concrete evidence the allegations against Houghton cannot be sustained and therefore the AIFF agrees to withdraw all charges and allegations made against him," the AIFF release said.
"However, Houghton, for his personal reasons, does not wish to continue working in India and in his position as the Head Coach of the Indian Football Team. Houghton has therefore tendered his resignation. His resignation is accepted by the AIFF. The parties have mutually agreed to terminate the employment contract of Houghton," it added.
The AIFF did not say anything about the compensation to be given to Houghton whose contract was to run till 2013.
For the past few days after Houghton submitted a written reply to the AIFF panel on April 11, there had been reports of negotiations going on between Houghton and the federation to settle the issue.
Houghton had in his reply to the show cause on March 23 had denied the racial abuse charges levelled against him, terming them as "baseless".
But apparently, the initiative for a negotiated settlement had come from Houghton's side as he did not want his reputation to be sullied.
Sources said the AIFF agreed to drop the racial abuse charges if Houghton quits immediately, which he did on Saturday.
In a meeting held at the AIFF headquarters in the Capital this afternoon, the two negotiating sides apparently signed on a confidentiality clause that they will not disclose the terms and conditions of the deal to public.
Houghton's lawyer at the MIFF panel hearing, Anish Dayal refused to disclose the details of the negotiation and compensation to be paid to Houghton, saying that it was "an internal matter" between the two parties.
"The compensation to be paid and other details are an internal issue between the two parties. We are happy that the racial abuse charge has been dropped and the show cause notice has been cancelled," he said.
"Houghton no longer wants to continue as coach and I am not in a position to tell the reasons," he said.
Sources, however, said that Houghton, who draws a monthly salary of $ 30,000 besides other perks, would be given three months compensation by the AIFF.
The federation quoted Houghton wishing well for Indian football in future.
"The AIFF thanked Houghton for his services to the Indian football team for the last about five years and Houghton expresses his gratitude to the AIFF for having given him an opportunity to coach the Indian football team and wishes the Indian football team all the very best for its future endeavours," the AIFF release said.
It is, however, no secret that Houghton has been fed up of the way he has been treated by the federation in the past one year, which culminated his ouster on racial abuse charges.
Houghton was accused by Nair of shouting at him 'b****** Indian referee' in frustration for not adding more time after the first 45 minutes in the match against Yemen in Pune.
Some of the Indian players told in a letter to AIFF president Praful Patel recently that Houghton was annoyed that more time was not added considering that there were many injury stoppages in the first half in that match but he had not used any racial remarks against Nair while heading out of the field along with them.
Houghton's resignation ended a controversial but fairly successful period in Indian football as the Englishman had rubbed the football establishment on the wrong side on several issues ranging from lack of infrastructure to the vested interest in running the game.
The 63-year-old coach had criticised the Indian football structure for sticking with what he called redundant tournaments like Santosh Trophy, Durand Cup and IFA Shield and for I-League players featuring in local leagues.
His constant criticism of India's acute lack of infrastructure and professional set-up even before international media during the Asian Cup in Qatar in January had angered the AIFF top brass.