Team manager Pradeep Chowdhury's out-of-the-blue decision to part ways with the Indian football squad has not gone down well with national players, who are preparing in Dubai for the Asian Cup, scheduled to be held in Doha from January 7.
Reacting strongly to Chowdhury's decision to return to India following a reported fallout with chief coach Bob Houghton, skipper Bhaichung Bhutia said, "This is not something we needed at this time. I'm very disappointed at his decision to leave us at such a difficult phase."
"He mentioned to me about his ill health and piled up personal work. That may have been the reason he gave but we strongly feel that he could have stayed back and those were only alibis," Bhutia added.
Ace striker Sunil Chhetri too was critical of Chowdhury's step.
"This was quite shocking and left us in a very sad mood. This is obviously a very tough time for us, given the fact we have been struggling with injuries and finding it difficult to win games. Pradip Chowdhury leaving us will not help matters at all.
"He should have remained behind and we should have stuck together like a family instead of bringing up petty, personal issues. This is completely unexpected from a man of his stature," Chhetri said.
Slamming the manager, Syed Rahim Nabi said, "Pradip Chowdhury has always been involved with too many things apart from managing the national team. He seldom gave his full time to the job. He rarely took care of the off-field work.
"To me it was really bad timing for him to quit at this stage. It was really unexpected as the entire team is looking for motivation," he added.
Goalkeeper Subrata Pal said, "Leaving without any credible reason has really caused a lot of discomfort in the team. Knowing Bob Houghton for more than four years has also made me believe that he would never malign someone the way Pradip has expressed."
The normally calm and composed Mahesh Gawli, too, was scathing in his attack on Chowdhury.
"I did not interact with him much and we saw very little of him. Most of the time he was away due to personal agenda. To me his absence really does not make much of a difference. He should have had the courage to stay back at such a tough time. His excuses are baseless," Gawli said.
Stopper Anwar Ali said, "Differences have always been there between people and it will always be there. But one should be mature enough to handle it. I think Pradip Chowdhury has used a bad excuse to leave the team like this."
Equally critical was senior defender Deepak Mondal who said that the team was not happy with Chowdhury's work.
"He really did not do much and never gave the team adequate time. He has left everything in disarray just before the start of the biggest tournament of our careers," Mondal said.