New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) Former India midfielder Steven Dias has said coach Bob Houghton’s role in helping them win AFC Challenge Cup 2008 was massive.
On the 12th anniversary of India winning the AFC Challenge Cup 2008 in the national capital, Dias walked down the memory lane and spoke to www.the-aiff.com.
“I have had the honour of playing some memorable matches wearing the Indian jersey. However, if I have to choose my favourite one — it has to be the final of the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008 — where we defeated Tajikistan 4-1 in New Delhi – that too on this day, exactly 12 years ago,” he said.
“The win gave us an entry to the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011, ending a wait of 27 years. That night in the capital was a special one, and I remember it like it was yesterday.
“The tournament was held in Hyderabad but the final was shifted to Delhi because of incessant rains. And it rained in Delhi on matchday too. But our spirits were not dampened, and neither could the rain dampen the spirits of the 25,000 odd spectators. They braved the rain and cheered for India all throughout.
“Playing the final in Delhi was a boost for us. We had won the Nehru Cup a year before at the stadium defeating a super-strong Syria in the final. The Ambedkar Stadium was like a fortress for us.”
“Our confidence levels were high going into the final. In each position, we had players who brought immense quality to the team and all of us were confident in each other’s abilities. For example, I played a right midfielder and had Surkumar Singh behind me at right-back. I stayed 100 per cent confident that he will cover me if I make an error.
“Another important factor in our conviction was the role of our coach Bob Houghton. He simplified the game like no other and the way he would explain things — it would make it appear so easy. We discussed match situations. He knew very well how to motivate his players and bring the best out of them. His video sessions were simply unforgettable and were extremely powerful,” he added.