News Article

Eat. Travel around the world. Select the same Indian national team. Repeat!

Written by: Punit Tripathi

Stephen Constantine has repeatedly spoken about his quest to increase the Blue Tigers' depth in quality but his choices belie his words.

If there was ever a ‘perfect’ quote that Stephen Constantine could comfortably carry on a t-shirt, here it is. The National team manager is in his second stint as the gaffer of the Blue Tigers and has been given an extension recently until the Asia Cup 2019, but little seems to be changing in futuristic context for Indian football with the Englishman at the helm.

It's not difficult to rightly guess Constantine's starting XI every game, and not rocket science to predict the select sixteen. While the manager may and deserves to have his preferences, the songs of 'a larger pool of players' and chances to youngsters have been doing the rounds for far too long from with no real effect. Stop the marketing and then, do as you wish.  

Also, this comes at a time when some of the players have looked to be in the forms of their lives, and yet, have not been given a look-in in the 32 member squad for the AFC Asian Cup qualifier and the Kyrgyz Republic.

Criticisms have been coming from all over the country on the team selection

When Constantine started off his second stint, he established a scouting system for nationwide talent. Davinder Singh, a street-smart and safe defender, is a product of the same. While questions should not be asked about the need and meaningfulness of the system in place, questions can be asked about what and whether it has made an effect on the selections.

None. There has been no change. One youngster comes in, another one drops out. None of them make/leave a mark. The same faces on the pitch. The same faces on the bench. Seityasen Singh has been part of the squad for almost as long as memory goes, but did not play enough club football in the last two seasons. (His current season with Delhi Dynamos has been alright)

Apart from Sunil Chhetri and Stephen Constantine, another love story has been blossoming for some time now at the National team camp. Sumeet Passi, a player who didn't have much game time at all at Jamshedpur FC during the group stages of the Indian Super League, has managed to 'earn' a call-up, just like he has been managing to, for some time now.  


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How does the system work? Is nepotism prevalent in a system that badly needs a breath of honest air and recognition for talent? Khel Now has already published a list of 11 players that should've made the cut, but expectedly, didn't. Our fault to expect miracles, though. These players have been better than most of the players in the 32-men squad and we stand at a question again: Why?

Probably, the rigidity of tactics from the 55-year-old manager. Constantine likes burly built players, but the selection and regular game time to East Bengal’s Mohd. Rafique defies logic. Gagandeep Bali, a striker who led Minerva Punjab to the I-league title, is a direct replacement for Robin Singh, but he failed to make the cut.

It’s not the rigidity, then, or maybe, it’s just selective rigidity. Is the Federation strong-arming the man? The scenario doesn’t offer a hint at that. Is there a bigger power controlling the team? Constantine, as bold as he is, would’ve suggested to the fact if there would have been something under wraps. Understanding the situation is quite literally painful, because the Indian football fans have no one to look at after Sunil Chhetri, and a lot of it is to be blamed to the man at the hot seat because he’s simply not doing enough.

Published: Tue Mar 13, 2018 03:19 PM IST


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