Adios Stephen Constantine, the man who we loved to loathe
Written by: Ali Shibil Roshan
In the aftermath of India's' group stage elimination from the AFC Asian Cup, their much-traveled head coach Stephen Constantine resigned.
In the end, it seemed cruel when Stephen Constantine left the post-match press conference crying. The moment looked inevitable after India had crushed out of the AFC Asian Cup. The Blue Tigers may have dazzled the audience with their entertaining brand of football, but it wasn't just enough.
The Englishman's second tenure as India head coach began on 16 January 2015. He had beaten Ricki Herbert to the post and had started well. After almost four years, the man resigned, on 14 January 2019, but with his heads held high. How well did the 56-year-old honcho fare during his four-year stint?
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He won the SAFF Championship in 2015, guided India to victories in tri-nation series in 2017 and Intercontinental Cup in 2018. But his biggest achievement as the head coach has to be the qualification to the AFC Asian Cup, which was India's only fourth appearance in Asia's biggest footballing event.
In between 2015 and 2019, the man did a lot, earned acclamations for a few, got severely criticized for the most.
His playing style had always been a subject of criticism. Before the AFC Asian Cup, India were a side that would defend for 90 minutes, a unit which would want moments of brilliance from their skipper Sunil Chhetri to win matches.
The coach, it seemed, had love for a few players. He stuck with them, through thick and thin, and it became obvious how his team would look like. A few players couldn't make it into Constantine's squad in spite of dominant performances for their respective clubs. It looked they would never make it, under the Englishman, and they didn't.
A vast majority of the fans didn't love the man, for reasons that varied from playing style to player selections. There had always been furious outcries from the supporters to axe the gaffer. It seemed the AIFF wouldn't and they didn't, the coach resigned before the federation could decide on his future.
Well, the man's gone. He wept tears at the post-match conference, and that must speak a little about how important the tournament was for him. The coach might have wanted to prove his criticizers wrong and boy, he was too close.
Let's not be partial. Constantine deserves praise, at least some sympathy. The man did a lot of good work for the nation during his second stint and those should not go uncounted. India's rise from 173 to 97 in the FIFA rankings is no mean achievement and the English foreman oversaw the process.
After all, he helped India qualify into the AFC Asian Cup and do something incredible and stimulating in the UAE. What more would you expect from a coach coaching a national football team where we are uncertain over the future of the country's top-tier league, the I-League?
In the UAE, the boys played lion-hearted. They trounced Thailand, spooked the hosts, and wilted under pressure against Bahrain. Constantine had insisted his team would be playing for a victory against Bahrain and if they had played for that, he would have still been coaching India, preparing tactics to punch above their weight in the knockout rounds. Despite the group-stage exit, India were able to show the world they have developed a lot in the recent years.
India went into the tournament with the second youngest squad and thanks, Constantine, for the temerity you showed, for the faith you had on our future stars. Ashique and Thapa will go onto become irreplaceable figures in the national team, at least for the coming 5 years.
In the end, India couldn't make it into the knockout rounds and the coach did not wait for anyone's mercy. Perhaps he might have known what the AIFF would decide or must have understood he was a man who the fans loved to loathe.
Whatever it is, Constantine, you'll be remembered by the fans for everything good you have done for the nation. We, at Khel Now, wish you good luck whatever your next task is. Adios until we meet again, Stephen Constantine.
Published: Mon Jan 21, 2019 06:18 PM IST