The former Indian football team head coach also spoke in brief regarding Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Romeo Fernandes, Ashique Kuruniyan and others.
Any tale of Indian football since the turn of the millennium will have Stephen Constantine play a vital role in it. The Englishman has been at the helm two coaching stints in the country, and was instrumental in leading the national team to the AFC Asian Cup in 2019. Constantine’s first tenure from 2002-05 was more about restructuring a broken system. After coming back in 2015, there were certain key objectives to be achieved that the revered tactician talked in length about in the latest episode of Khel Now’s Beyond The Scores Podcast.
Players such as Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Rowllin Borges, Halicharan Narzary, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Udanta Singh, Anas Edathodika and Pronay Halder debuted for the Blue Tigers under the tutelage of Stephen Constantine. Currently, the tactician is in the search of a new project to be a part of.
“If I have to sign an Indian player at an European club tomorrow, I will sign Anirudh Thapa,” Stephen Constantine mentioned whilst talking about the pool of Indian players that have the potential to play internationally. He further explained, “I think Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu) should get out. I would like to see Pronay (Halder) play abroad. Subhashish Bose, I would like to see him out. Ashique Kuruniyan, big, strong base. He just needs the foundations. I don’t know who is going to give them these opportunities. But, I thought Ashique upfront against Thailand absolutely destroyed them. And, I was the first one who played him as a striker.”
The former Indian team head coach also addressed the anecdote regarding Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s decision to join Bengaluru FC after representing Norwegian side Stabaek FC. Joe Morrison, a renowned commentator and observer of Indian football, had claimed that the custodian was put under “financial and political pressure” to return back to India after his European stint.
“I and Joe Morrison did not want Gurpreet to come back, but, on the proviso that he is playing games. And I said to him (Morrison), if he is in Norway and not playing games, how can he come and then play for us in the national team? He (Gurpreet) made the decision, came back and signed for Bengaluru and I am absolutely pleased. At that time, for Gurpreet it was absolutely the best move,” Constantine stated.
“It was a year before the Asian Cup, so he would have a full season with Bengaluru. He would be here with us for camps, no issues. That is true,” he added.
In the second episode of our podcast, Dempo SC stalwart Beto asserted that Constantine’s constant pursuance propelled Indian attacker Romeo Fernandes to leave top flight Brazilian outfit Club Athletico Paranaense.
Beto had facilitated Fernandes’ move to the South American country as he recalled, “I brought Romeo Fernandes to Brazil, but it was spoiled by then India coach (Stephen) Constantine and Romeo’s agent. Constantine also made jokes and made him come back to India for the national team, as he was not playing regularly. Then after six months, Romeo was not even in the national team anymore. He was not part of any big scene, it hurt me a lot.”
Stephen Constantine clarified his stance on this issue. “I never spoke to Beto, I never spoke to Beto’s agent. We called Romeo to a camp, he came, he did okay. We called him to another camp, and he didn’t turn up. He was even suspended by the AIFF. So, was I waiting for Romeo to come back (from Brazil)? No, I wasn’t,” he concluded.