The Blue Tigers will play Sri Lanka in their first fixture for the SAFF Championship.

On the eve of India‘s SAFF Championship preparatory camp in New Delhi, the AIFF held a brief interactive session attended by the national team head coach Stephen Constantine who met with the media.

Constantine started by thanking all the ISL and I-League clubs for releasing the requisite players for the 2018 SAFF Championship to be hosted by Bangladesh in September 2018.

He then went on to explain the exclusion of the two Bengaluru FC players (Nishu Kumar and Udanta Singh) from the tournament, “The way I see is that Bengaluru is representing India in the AFC Cup. I think it is important that our clubs participate in the AFC Cup and these tournaments. We are not only preparing for the September tournament, but also for the Asian Cup. So, to allow those two players to play in the AFC tournament, I think is good for Indian football.”

“I am 100% supportive of that. They are representing India, and I would obviously do this for them.”

When asked if he expected similar co-operation in December, when the AIFF plans to have a similar camp for the Asian Cup, the 55-year old answered in the affirmitive. The former Rwanda tactician expressed his disappointment with the national team not being allowed to play in the upcoming Asian Games this year, to be held in Indonesia.

“It is an appalling decision, based upon results of how we were in the previous Asian Games. We are not the same team of how we were four or eight years ago. For me, it was a big disappointment and I think it did us harm, as we would have a good opportunity to qualify from the groups. I think these big games would really develop our players. It was a very poor decision.”

In terms of him being present during the domestic ISL and I-League matches, the Englishman said that he has three to four scouts to coordinate the work and to observe the players as he himself cannot be present at all of them, due to him being out of the country at times.


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On average, he stated that he attends 15-20 games and that its better to watch it on television.

He further went on to explain the canceling of the Australia trip, as it was supposed to be a part of the Asian Games preparations, which fell apart last week.

In terms of match practice till the much-awaited Asian Cup, other than China, it was revealed that the national team would play an unconfirmed team in November, Oman in December and another game before the first tournament fixture against Thailand.

Constantine also explained that the I-League and ISL are not the only mediums for players to make it to the national team. The coach said, “there is a player in this camp from the Santosh Trophy.”

“It is not necessary to be from those leagues. We can even find a player from the state league.”

In regard to the selection of players from the U-17 FIFA World Cup team, he mentioned that there are four players in this camp from the Indian Arrows (who are currently in Spain for the COTIF tournament).

The manager went on to explain, “There was a lot of hype on the team, but they didn’t win any games in the World Cup. I never saw why we were making such a big deal out of the under-17 team. They didn’t qualify. They hosted it. Too much was made of it. They even played in the I-League and came last.”

On a finishing note, he stated that none of the players have been selected to make up the numbers, even if they haven’t played many games in the I-League or ISL, explaining that “they are here to make a difference.”