Is the hate meted out to Stephen Constantine justified?
Written by: Punit Tripathi
The fans have been calling out for Stephen Constantine since the defeat against the Kyrgyz Republic on Tuesday night.
India's much-fabled 13-match unbeaten run came to an abrupt end as the team, devoid of talisman and captain Sunil Chhetri, lost 2-1 in their final AFC Asian Cup Qualifier in Bishkek on Tuesday night.
India have already qualified for the continental extravaganza in the UAE next year and to that effect the game was inconsequential. But, the public reaction to the debacle has been sharp. Notably, at the receiving end of much of the furore are not the players who turned out on the pitch on Tuesday, but the man who guides them from the sidelines.
Kyrgyzstan ended India's 13 match unbeaten streak on Tuesday evening with a 2-1 win over the Blue Tigers
Let's be honest, Stephen Constantine would not win a popularity contest voted for by Indian football fans at this time, if ever. Yet, for a team that has qualified for the top continental competition for the first time in eight years and one that fairly recently re-entered the world's top 100 in the FIFA rankings, you might wonder what the fuss is all about? Well, those batting against him do have their reasons and on the evidence of last night they aren't too far off.
#ConstantineOut trended on Twitter on Tuesday evening on a day when #KGZvIND should’ve. Even with qualification already secured the game had a lot riding on it and a win would’ve helped India in a way the AIFF and the manager wanted-by attaining them their highest ever global ranking-not a way it ideally should.
The 55-year-old tactician has probably forgotten that football is played on the pitch and not by statistical analyses calculated by FIFA ranking experts, or, does not have enough belief in Indian (some) players. Ironically, he’s at the helm of the national team, runs a scouting programme, and was recently awarded an extension until April 2019 (through to the Asian Cup).
Coming to the point, there is one fundamental problem at the heart of the various reasons listed down by the fans baying for Constantine’s removal: playing style. At times, it seems that the Indian team plays with nine players: two non-existent midfielders. The problem has been perpetually the same, with Macau being an exception. Well, Macau are 186th in the FIFA rankings and certainly don't know the tricks Constantine knows.
With that said, here are the four major bones of contention most Blue Tigers fans have with the direction in which their national team is currently heading.
The composite Indian squads, in recent times, have always featured at least four left-backs and just one right-back, Pritam Kotal. His exclusion before the Kyrgyz game opened the door for ISL Emerging Player of the Season Lalruatthara to make his debut in national colours. It also opened the door for Anton Zemlianukhin, easily the most creative player in Kyrgyzstan’s armor to put his side ahead in just two minutes on Tuesday.
Pritam Kotal was excluded from the squad that travelled to the Kyrgyz Republic
The #22 left winger toyed with the Kerala Blasters man with ease throughout the game and the referee’s leniency helped the right-back to remain on the pitch for the 90. Inexperience? For a player who makes 4.3 fouls per game, it is shambolic and questions his positioning. A quick look at the stats of competitors Rahul Bheke and Seriton Fernandes provide more insight on where the manager has gone wrong.
Bheke, easily one of the best defenders in Indian football last season, made 1.4 fouls per game with a passing percentage of 82 throughout the season. Seriton, at FC Goa, made just a foul per game and had 86% passing accuracy. It is worrying that the Indian national team manager does not consider these facts. Well, his selections have always been on a whim: Physical and dominating. These two, are in no way, poorer than Narayan Das or Mohd. Rafique, his first-choice left-back and central midfielder respectively. English mindset? Let us take you to England.
Not a lot of Indians know Nick Pope. Goalkeeper at Premier League club Burnley, the man formerly distributed milk and is currently in the England squad after strong performances this season. Isn’t that the exact reason for national leagues all around the globe? In India, it seldom has an effect on the myriad thought processes of the man in the hotseat and his selections.
How else do you get selected for the Indian national team if you’re performing for your club? Is nepotism the root cause? Or is it the rigidity and non-flexibility of a manager crippling the national side?
Clearly, the football India play on the pitch against their opponents is cringeworthy. Shambolic in possession, the team has won two major games with counter-attacks they probably can’t reproduce even on the training pitch. When you play against a team with four of your regular starters out, you ensure stability and solidarity at the beginning of a game. Instead, India conceded in the second minute, playing catch-up for the rest of their game.
The team never recovered, it never does. The strikers have their full-backs and centre-backs as their ball suppliers and not the midfield. Not the wider case in the game across the world. This system, thus, is flawed and has remained unchanged ever since the Englishman started his second stint.
The Unheeded Revolt
A section of the Indian football team has allegedly been unhappy with Constantine's methods for some time now. But, not match has been done at the organizational level to resolve the same. According to Khel Now sources, players have said that even when the group showed its grit against the manager, the federation did not stand with them, thus, forcing them to end the protest.
AIFF President Praful Patel is not convinced with the allegations that have been raised towards Stephen Constantine
AIFF President Praful Patel was asked about the same at an event on Tuesday and he said, “What you are talking, is very hypothetical. Until and unless. I hear something, I cannot go by some murmur in the media. I have to be told concretely by somebody that there is a problem. If the problem is not conveyed to us in the right way, I am not going to go on a fish-hunting expedition."
Prior to the contract extension, there were widespread reports that the Indian national team camp is unhappy and that the players had requested for a change in management. Instead, the same man is now on course to lead the team at the Asian Cup.
The Fake Promises
"Today was the 37th player who made a debut since my arrival. In this squad, I have 11 U-23 players, three of those being under 20. We have a good future,’’ Constantine asserted after India’s defeat in Bishkek. Mourinho-ish? Certainly.
Very few players have made it to the team in a role that belongs on the pitch and most of it is probably marketing for a manager who is creating an illusion about his love for youth and openness for new players. In reality, his ethos is the exact opposite. It is that of a rigid man who’s not flexible to attempt something new. Constantine is taking Indian football, on the pitch, to new lows every time the boys walk out.
Justified or not, the reasons that have been listed here aren't baseless and will make you wonder: Is Indian football on the right track under Stephen Constantine?
Top Tweets from #ConstantineOut
After getting lots of messages from #IndianFootball fans asking for Khel Now's opinion on #ConstantineOUT, the article is on the way. But, before that, we just want to know views of the fans themselves. #BackTheBlue #KYZvIND @fni— Khel Now (@KhelNow) March 28, 2018
https://t.co/DGtiM9MuHZ— Ashwin Nair (@AshwinNair99) March 27, 2018
I wasn't shocked by our performance today (partly because I don't believe our best 11 started). But @StephenConstan comments make me cringe.
1.Rankings are not due to you, it's AIFF.
2.Stop being proud of the 37th debut. ????#KGZvIND #ConstantineOut @fni pic.twitter.com/eXPNUbdqE2
It's not because of today's loss, neither because of the long ball tactics but trend this Hashtag only because of those players who are being constantly overlooked by this person who calls himself a Football Coach ! #ConstantineOut pic.twitter.com/NHLgWA8wEJ— Indian Football Team-For World Cup (@IFTWC) March 27, 2018
This Man to me is a mystery. Thank you so much for ending our dream run with your shambolic & substandard selection and the same old ineffective long balls. We could've put up a great show had we deployed our best possible team. India deserves better. #ConstantineOUT— Hemang Schweinsteiger (@SirSchweini) March 27, 2018
Dear football fans.. we won the war against Kochi turf.. Lets start another campaign against that Bald constantine .. That white thrash must go. He has no tactics at all.. #ConstantineOut @chetrisunil11 @IndianFootball— Raj Rao (@GabruDosanjh) March 27, 2018
What a outrageous team selection. How can you even miss Bheke for the RB position. Most of the attack came from that side. This man surely doesn't gives a shit to Indian club football. #ConstantineOut ASAP— Prathmesh Nagalkar (@P_Nagalkar) March 27, 2018
Dear @StephenConstan, nobody likes sacking. We're more upset about how we played than the result. 9 months to go for Asian cup. There's time! Many things need to change, starting from squad selection. We'll travel to UAE to back you & the boys but you need to #ConstantineOUT @fni— Naveed Ahmed (@NavidAhmed67) March 27, 2018
Couldn’t watch the match because of some work ! Was really sad when heard that the unbeaten run of @IndianFootball has come to an end. ???????? But glad that #ConstantineOut is trending !! Get him out !!! #KGZvIND— Desi2wins (@Desi2wins) March 27, 2018
This is as pathetic as I've seen any Indian team play. About as terrible as the Guam away game. Shambles. #ConstantineOut— Aaditya Narayan (@Aaditya_LFC) March 27, 2018
No wonder why Constantine admires Arsenal and Wenger so much— Vishnu Ak (@vishnuak_8) March 27, 2018
Both Wenger and Constantine have the best job security in the world#ConstantineOut
wondering what Rafique was doing for whole 90 minutes!! Probably he was picked just to represent i league. #ConstantineOut .— sagar sarkar (@SagarDjvu) March 27, 2018
I really want to say this not because india has lost a football match bt becz of the team our grt coach took to Kyrgyzstan he could have taken much better players. Not saying that it was a bad team bt it could have been much better. #ConstantineOut @IFTWC— Shashank Singh (@SinghShashank07) March 27, 2018
Lost ! Lost ! Lost !— tanmay kurekar (@TanmayKurekar) March 27, 2018
Coach Stephen Constantine has lost India's Midfield somewhere. If found please contact concerned bodies.
After watching @IndianFootball playing agnst Kyrgyzstan I don't knw why AIFF extended contract with @StephenConstan . There was zero tactics in that game. #Constantineout. @kbfc_manjappada @IFTWC . Get him out of here.— krishTheBlaster (@Dkriz48) March 27, 2018
Agree that you have brought the team to where it is now... and we don’t want to see it go back there.— Darshan Radhakrishna (@darshandds13) March 27, 2018
You have done well.. and your time is up, pass on the baton to your successor.
With all due respect...????#ConstantineOut
A pathetic performance by Indian National Team. @StephenConstan where can you see the midfield passing the ball.A terrible squad selection leaving C.K Vineeth and Sossiaraj. Honestly you should resign for thr betterment of Indian Football #ConstantineOut #KYZvIND— Ashutosh Solanke (@AshSolanke) March 27, 2018
Was there a strategy for tonight gaffer? Seriously? Poor performance from the team. Credits to the under dogs.— sreerag ps (@rag_ps) March 27, 2018
Thank you for your service. #Constantineout
We want our national football team keep progressing and the man in charge at present is not the one who can do it for us. His tactics of playing is not what we want. Hoping for a change in our management. #ConstantineOut— Mohammed Saveer (@YemYes07) March 27, 2018
When u have players like brandon,soosairaj,Samuel and u are playing with rafique what would be the result ? Loss only...!!! So what Indian fans and team needs ? one solution only #ConstantineOut— kirtivardhan singh (@rathorevarun4) March 27, 2018
Published: Wed Mar 28, 2018 08:24 PM IST