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'Bhutia has stabbed me in the back'

March 30, 2006 11:45 IST

"I have been discharged with the expertise of a hammer thrower, swung around a few times in a circular motion before being heaved miles away," said a disappointed Syed Nayeemuddin, referring to the manner in which the All India Football Federation got rid of his services.

Nayeemuddin, who was appointed national coach after Sukhwinder Singh was unceremoniously kicked out following pathetic performances by the Indian team in Pakistan and Fiji, is the country's only Dronacharya awardee from the football fraternity.  Having won acclaim in a few Asian countries, including Bangladesh, he is more than just peeved with the treatment meted out to him by the AIFF, and intends returning the balance money the AIFF owes him in protest if it does not honour his contractual obligations.

Nayeem said he was given the short shrift right at the beginning of his tenure as national coach, when the AIFF hired his services in October 2005, just before the Federation Cup. That was when he was selected by a panel of eminent former players to the national coach's job. The AIFF went on record saying Nayeem was appointed national coach and put on the job of meeting coaches of the National Football League for feedback on talent available in their pool.

Strangely, the AIFF ignored the three months of hard work put in by him and his assistant, Gabriel Joseph, and had him sign an official contract, starting from December, conveniently ignoring the salary payment for the other two previous months.

"I don't understand why I was not paid for the two months. We made the rounds of the clubs' hotel rooms and spent hours and days interacting with the chief coaches, inquiring into their pool of talent. Records were made, and several other research work done to provide the AIFF food for thought.

"So, we weren't idle. Why should I not get paid for those months?" asked Nayeem.

"Do I deserve such an insult from the AIFF? I have given my sweat and blood for the country, sacrificed my family life, just for the betterment of Indian football. And all I got from the AIFF is a slap on the face."

Nayeem said he put the boys through hard training as the National Football League and international tournaments are on two different levels, the latter being more tough mentally and competitively.

"It is important that the players are put through the grind ahead of international tournaments. It toughens them in many ways and bonds them on the field. The players never complained to me. I told them every day that my doors are open 24 hours at all time for any discussion and or discomfiture they are in with regard to training schedules, accommodation, food or anything else. I always wanted the best for them so that they could give their best on the field.

"They gave me positive results at the SAFF Cup. The training was the hardest, as we had a longer camp than those held for the Asian Cup 2007 qualifiers. But there was no complaint then. Was it because we won the title?"

Baichung BhutiaReacting to skipper Baichung Bhutia's ridiculing his training methods, Nayeem said he was shocked at Bhutia stabbing him in the back.

"This was the same man who came up to me soon after we won the SAFF Cup and said, 'Coach, thank you for making us work hard. We did it.'

"There was no complaint of archaic training or over-training then. Why suddenly now, after our defeats to Japan and Yemen? We missed six very, very experienced players. They were the main cogs in the wheel. That made the difference in the SAFF Cup.

"I am shocked at Bhutia's reaction. He has stabbed me in the back; stabbed the man who gave him new life. Coach Subhash Bhowmick did not want him in East Bengal. Today he is back in full flight. Good for him. But what he has done is wrong. I never ran him down when we lost; I never ran any player down. I took the blame for the defeats because I was coach. Their failure was my failure," bemoaned an emotionally hurt Nayeem.

Nayeem said sacking him would not solve AIFF's problem.

"They need to address the issue more sincerely instead of blaming the coach. I have given India the SAFF Cup within a short span, while the last foreign coach hired by the AIFF couldn't give India one in three years, except for the LG Cup success.

"They also lost 0-7 to Japan in Japan in the World Cup qualifiers. Why do they have double standards, one for foreign coaches and another for Indian coaches?

"Give the national players more rest. Cut down their participation in other tournaments. Allow them to participate only in the NFL and set a proper calendar that spaces out the NFL from international competitions with enough time for international friendlies and camps."

Nayeem feels he was made a scapegoat also because he spoke of better remuneration for national players and stepped up their vitamin intake.

"Whatever they do, the AIFF should learn to respect the national coach. If they are to terminate a contract then they should first inform him before going to the media.  It's like maiming an animal before sending him to the slaughter house," concluded Nayeem.

Shantanu Ghosh