Riedle halts rich flow of Indian skill

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The Independent Football

Whatever other charges may be made against him, there is no question that Fulham's chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed, has brought more attention upon the club than anyone since Tommy Trinder and Johnny Haynes. But his offer to host the first visit to Britain of the Indian National side since the 1948 Olympic Games, seemed, on the face of it, like arranging a pre-season friendly match with about as much publicity value as a warm-up against Slough. But Fayed had heard that the game would be televised all across Asia, which meant spreading the club's name with the sort of instant success that the boss's new publicity man, Max Clifford, is unlikely ever to match.

Whatever other charges may be made against him, there is no question that Fulham's chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed, has brought more attention upon the club than anyone since Tommy Trinder and Johnny Haynes. But his offer to host the first visit to Britain of the Indian National side since the 1948 Olympic Games, seemed, on the face of it, like arranging a pre-season friendly match with about as much publicity value as a warm-up against Slough. But Fayed had heard that the game would be televised all across Asia, which meant spreading the club's name with the sort of instant success that the boss's new publicity man, Max Clifford, is unlikely ever to match.

The occasion, which Fayed said he hoped would also make a significant contribution to India's "profile on the world stage", was also the first home match for Fulham's new manager, Jean Tigana, a member of the 1984 French National side that won the European Championship. Since then he has coached Monaco to the 1997 French Championship title. So Fulham are now leaning on the French connection in the hope that it does as much for them as it has for Arsenal. Tigana has appointed two other Frenchmen, Christian Damiano, formerly coach of Nice, and Roger Propos, formerly fitness trainer at Paris St Germain and Marseille.

India, who will play West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday and Bangladesh at Filbert Street on 29 July, have never managed to translate huge domestic interest in football to success either internationally or in their domestic game. A professional league has existed for only four seasons and almost all of the national team are in need of more experience playing abroad. Indeed, of the visiting squad only one, the captain Bhaichung Bhutia, plays in European football (he is on the books of Bury).

Unfortunately a clash of interests among the Indian population of London slightly reduced the expected crowd to 5,773. An Asian music festival in south London had divided loyalties, but India's short football tour may yet help in the campaign to get more of Britain's Asian community involved in the game.

The promise of India's coach, Sukhvinver Singh, was that while his team were not anticipating victories, they had confidence in their individuality which was immediately obvious yesterday since only Fulham's new signing, John Collins, consistently outshone them in what the Indians probably considered was the cool of a blazing English summer afternoon.

They determinedly reinforced their defence and threw themselves into the tackles with reasonable expectation that if they missed, support would be close at hand. Conversely, crossing the halfway line was an achievement. Admittedly after only three minutes Vijayan crisply hit a shot past Maik Taylor but offside frustrated him and India spent almost the whole of the first half being grateful that the attacks of Karl Heinz Riedle and Luis Boa Morte were thwarted.

It took Riedle 40 minutes to find a gap in the defensive line. Virender Singh had just made two splendid saves before the ball was half cleared and Riedle scuffed it back past the goalkeeper.

Singh's continued diligence retained India's respectable score and did nothing for Tigana's confidence. Even when Riedle added Fulham's second goal near the end, which took a collision between Singh and Robert Fernandes to create the opportunity. Nevertheless, Fulham will play less skilful opponents in the approaching season.

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