The Indian gaffer finally broke his silence and made some bold statements over his squad selection policy.
As the Indian National Team gear up for their Intercontinental Cup campaign next month, head coach Stephen Constantine met with media professionals in Mumbai for an interactive session on Saturday. The session saw the English coach illuminating on some controversial topics, some of which have been haunting the tactician for quite some time now.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Stephen Constantine have been subjects of many criticisms in the past for playing lower ranked teams. Although India have seen a gradual rise in the FIFA rankings, India’s ulterior motive of landing an easier group in the AFC Asian Cup have failed in the process (read how). Answering the allegations Constantine said, “Contrary to popular belief, we have always tried to get friendlies against bigger teams; you learn more from playing against better teams.”
“But the bigger and better teams do not want to play us for the same reason we don’t want to play smaller teams,” he added.
Constantine also revealed his plan for the Asian Cup next year. “we have sent five six letters to teams that we want to come. In October we will try to have a home game and in November, we will try to play out,” he said. “We will try to play one or two Gulf region teams before we go. I can’t say anything more now as nothing is 100% confirmed,” he added.
Constantine feels the criticisms targeting him over squad selection policy deny logic
On being asked how challenging the task is going to be for his boys, the coach added, “it’s good that New Zealand are coming, they are a strong team. Chinese Taipei have improved in the last four to five months under Gary White and I know Kenya will be strong and physical. In fact, any team coming from Africa will be a challenge for us.”
The ongoing preparatory camp saw some surprising exclusions of several star performers in the recently concluded I-League and the Indian Super League (ISL). The announcement of the list of probables for the Intercontinental Cup preparatory camp saw another outrage from the Indian football fans who expressed their dissatisfaction over the announcement on social media.
“I don’t do anything by accident,” Constantine began, “I build teams. I did it ten years ago, I did it in Rwanda, I did it in Malawi, I did it in Sudan and I’m doing it here again for the second time.”
“I think we have to give young players the chance, the opportunity. But right time, right moment, right game, right opponent. You can’t just throw the kids there,” he asserted.
The Indian gaffer also stated that he is always on a lookout for a particular type of player. “I need a certain type of player to do a certain type of job for the national team,” he told.
“So if you score a couple of goals in I-League or a couple of goals in ISL, that’s great. But how do I translate this to what we need and that too on international level?” the 55-year-old added.
Constantine has been the subject of severe criticisms following the Blue Tigers’ defeat against Kyrgyzstan in their last AFC Asian Cup qualifying match. While the criticisms primarily targeted the gaffer’s lack of tactics, the critics also mentioned Constantine’s team picking analogy.
“The players that I don’t pick, it’s not that I have anything personal against them, it’s because they do not do what we need them to do for the international team,” the seasoned tactician answered before adding, “I really don’t care what anybody says, my only agenda is to succeed for India. Nothing else.”
The Indian head coach decided to answer his criticisms in the session. “You don’t like me, you don’t like the kind of football we play? I don’t care. Apart from Germany in that moment, there was no team that was in the kind of form we were in. So how could you in your right mind say the coach should leave?” he said.
Before conclusion, the coach seemed enthusiastic about the upcoming Intercontinental Cup and urged the fans to throng the stadium in huge numbers to support the Indian side.
“Come everyone! I greatly appreciate the support from West Block Blues, Blue pilgrims and other fan groups. Be it in Kerala, Kolkata, Mumbai, everywhere we have been welcomed by hugely enthusiast group of fans. I would like to give the due credit to my bosses Mr Praful Patel and Mr Kushal Das for giving me the freehand to work and the result is speaking for themselves.” he concluded.
The Intercontinental Cup begins from June 1 when India take on Chinese Taipei in the opening day at the Mumbai Football Arena.