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'Indian football needs to make a choice'
The 27 players shortlisted for India's upcoming international engagements include several footballers who are returning to the side after long injury breaks.
Players like Deepak Mondal, K Ajayan, Climax Lawrence and Mahesh Gawli have hardly played under coach Bob Houghton but find themselves among the probables.
The English coach said he had selected the players based on performances in the National Football League, Doha Asian Games and the Olympic qualifiers. He has also given weightage to advice from some club officials who watches some of them play.
The footballers will assemble for a preparatory camp at the beginning of the season before a training trip to Portugal ahead of the taxing international schedule, which will see the Indian team play about 15 matches.
Bungo Singh and Gourmangi Singh have been included though they did not feature at all in their clubs' NFL campaign.
"Bungo did not play in the league for Churchill (Brothers). He is a gamble, but a very good talent. He has been picked because I don't want him to disappear from the radar once again," Houghton told reporters.
"Gourmangi is a strong player, a team man and a hard worker."
Another "gamble" is the big Mahindra United forward Abhishek Yadav, who hardly played for his club recently, but made it due to his height which makes him an attractive target man.
The squad has four goalkeepers, but Subrata Paul, who was outstanding in the Olympic qualifiers, has fractured his cheekbone.
Mahindra United's Subhashish Roy Choudhury will play the Olympic qualifier against Thailand in Bangkok on Wednesday.
The other two are Sandip Nandy, the number one custodian in the land, and youngster Arindam Bhattacharya, "on whom we have high hopes", Houghton said.
ONGC's [Get Quote] Tarif Ahmed "is not the finished article yet but has shown that he is a big player with aggression, speed and a good work rate".
Baichung Bhutia, who last year expressed a desire to quit the international scene, finds his name in the squad again as does Sunil Chetri, who had a great NFL season, scoring 12 goals to become the highest scorer among Indians in the league.
Anthony Pereira, who played a crucial role in Dempo Sports Club's second NFL title win, has also been picked for the first time.
Club mate Clifford Miranda also impressed Houghton as "there are not too many left-sided midfielders around".
Surkumar Singh has been included after impressive performances at the Doha Asian Games, while striker Manjit Singh did well in the Olympic qualifiers.
Goalkeepers: Arindam Bhattacharya, Sandip Nandy, Subhashish Roy Choudhary, Subrata Paul.
Defenders: Surkumar Singh, Mahesh Gawli, Deepak Mondal, Syed Rahim Nabi, Samir Naik, Sanjeev Maria, N S Manju, Debabrata Roy.
Midfielders: K Ajayan, Climax Lawrence, N P Pradeep, Clifford Miranda, Steven Dias, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Renedy Singh, Bungo Singh, Gourmangi Singh.
Forwards: Baichung Bhutia, Sunil Chetri, Abhishek Yadav, Manjit Singh, Tarif Ahmed, Anthony Pereira.
Subject to fitness: Anupam Sarkar, Chandam Chitrasen.
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