The Red & Golds will feature on the opening day for the first time.

Indian Super League 2022-23 is knocking at the doorstep with the first match set to be played between Kerala Blasters and East Bengal in Kochi on 7th October 2022. The Red & Gold Brigade will be eager to move on from their abysmal performances of the previous two seasons and make their mark in the league. A day before the inaugural match of the season, head coach Stephen Constantine and player Souvik Chakrabarti addressed the media in the pre-match press conference.

Here’s what they said.

Stephen Constantine on returning to India

The English tactician had been the head coach of the Indian national team for seven years across two spells, the last year of which was in 2019. When asked what made him return to India as the coach of a club rather than the national side, Constantine said that he is here for a new challenge. He quipped, “I deliberately did not join any club after the national team. It had been three years. Emami East Bengal asked me nicely. I felt this to be a great opportunity for me and here I am.” Moreover, he said that he is eager to replicate what he did with the national side with a club this time around.

While answering a question on his plans to change the fortune of the club, he stated, “The plan is not to finish bottom of the table next season, that’s for sure. But, as I said, we are a new team with new staff and new players. We need time, we are rebuilding East Bengal from top to bottom.”

At the same time, he asked the fans to be patient as the club is rebuilding itself from top to bottom and that takes time. He said, “We need time to build, we need time for everybody to understand each other’s role. We will give everything in every game. There would be mistakes for sure. I forgive mistakes, but I don’t forgive people who don’t try or work. So, it’s what I said, one game at a time. I wish us luck and see what happens.”

Constantine’s understanding of Indian players

When asked how he is planning to use his prior knowledge of Indian football to address the issues that have been plaguing East Bengal for the past two seasons, Stephen Constantine seemed optimistic about the upcoming season. He stated, “I understand how Indian players think, how they feel. I am sure that is important. I can’t change what happened in the last season or the season before or even all the seasons before that.

He continued, “I can change what’s going to happen next. We have worked very hard in the short time we have been together. I had 12 players when I arrived 6 weeks ago. Now I have a squad of 26-27 players. We have worked very hard so far and we will see how good or bad we are in tomorrow’s game. We are not a finished article and we promise you we did not come to lose a game.”

Team’s approach for the game

When asked about East Bengal’s numerous on-field and off-field problems, Constantine did not comment publicly. Instead, he said that his sole focus is on Friday’s match. He said, “All I focus on now is tomorrow’s game. Kerala has a good side. Ivan has been around for the second year, and the players are very familiar with each other. It’s definitely going to be a difficult game. I think all the games will be difficult for us and we will take one game at a time. We will try to win every game, we don’t play football to lose. The boys will give an account of themselves tomorrow and we will see if we can get three points and move on.”

Also Read: Kerala Blasters vs East Bengal Match Preview

On signing ISL-experienced foreigners

East Bengal’s head coach said that it was of paramount importance to have a few ISL-experienced foreigners in the team. He said these players are a great fit for the team as they are accustomed to Indian conditions. He quoted, “I think having ISL experience was important for us in terms of the foreigners, and all three (Ivan Gonzalez, Cleiton Silva, and Alex Lima) are good characters and have no issues in terms of how we work in India. So, they would be important players for us going forward.”

Current scenario or legacy? Constantine answers

Stephen Constantine asserted that while it is good to have a rich history and legacy, every club should focus on what needs to be done in the present. He cited examples of Premier League clubs while answering the question by saying that while numerous English clubs have a rich history, only a handful enjoy worldwide support. This is because of what they have been doing in the current situation, rather than what they had done in earlier generations.

He said, “It is more important to focus on what happens now. If you don’t focus on the right things when you have that time, you are going to fall back. We have been in existence for 103 years. It’s great to have history, to look backwards, but I think each team will make history based on the results of the current situation.”

On Kerala Blasters’ home support and message to East Bengal fans

When asked about KBFC’s massive home support, the coach said that this is nothing to worry about. He said, “Unless you play in front of a large crowd, there is no other way to prepare them (players). Most of the guys have had some experience of the derby, and a lot of the players have played here and in Kolkata, which I think are the two biggest crowds. We don’t mull enough things we can’t control. Hopefully, we can keep the crowd quiet tomorrow. “

When asked what would be his message to East Bengal supporters ahead of the season, Stephen Constantine said that he has already been asked this question several times. He asserted that the answer is always the same. “We need the fans, we need the supporters. It’s fantastic that India has live fans again. I think the support that we have had from the supporters and especially from the ultras is unbelievable. I am sure that there would be a few Bengalis in the crowd tomorrow,” said the 59-year-old.

Plans to develop young Indian players

While answering this question, Constantine put forth an analogy between coaching the national side and his present role. He said that for the national side, he got only around 10 days every time to implement his philosophy. In his present role, it is a long-term process where he is developing the team on a daily basis. His reply was, “For the national team, I got 10 days to implement my philosophy. With the club, I am there every day. So, for me, it is an opportunity to coach them every day. I try to impart as much as I can to the players with my experience. We have a good staff and we will give them all the information. They will have individual analysis clips given to them.

“So, everything that we do in a European club is given to the players. Analysis clips are given to players who can watch these on their phones and laptops so that they can comprehend all the things which we say during the course of training sessions. We teach football, that’s it, it is not rocket science.”

Souvik Chakrabarti on joining East Bengal

When the captain was asked the reason to join East Bengal despite having a great season with champions Hyderabad FC, he said, “East Bengal — the name is enough.” Hailing from Kolkata, he said it was his childhood dream to play for the Red & Golds. He further said, ‘I am from Kolkata, I wanted to play for East Bengal from childhood. We will try our level best to improve as a team. For our supporters and us, we have to do more.”

Speaking about the squad, Souvik seemed highly optimistic. He claimed, “In my opinion, our squad is very good – one of the strongest squads. We gel very good as a team. We are practicing for six weeks. I think most of the boys are very talented, and the foreigners are also very good both on and off the pitch. Our coach, Stephen Constantine, and the staff are helping us to build one of the strongest teams. We will try our level best and we want to improve in every game. In my opinion, our team is a very good side, and let’s see what will happen.”

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