Indian football team coach Stephen Constantine has been widely credited for the dramatic rise in stature of the national team, which has seen it skyrocket from 173rd to 96th in the FIFA rankings.
With India breaching the top 100 in football rankings for the first time in 21 years , Stephen Constantine is the toast of fans and pundits alike.
However, the footballing fraternity are all set to learn more about the 54-year-old coach as a person and as a coach in his autobiography 'From Delhi to the Den' which is set to be released on July 25th by deCoubertin Books.
The book, co-authored by Owen Amos, speaks about the struggles the Englishman has gone through in his career in football and details the various challenges he has faced personally as well.
In one of the chapters, Constantine talks about his first stint as the head coach of India between 2002 and 2005 where he describes an incident in his first ever training camp with the national team in Jamshedpur.
As per Constantine, the accommodation for the players was arranged in the main stand of the training facility which had just six or seven rooms with bunk beds. The coach insisted on the players moving in to a hotel instead as he wanted more professionalism when it came to the national team.
Not just that, he also speaks about how he ensured the players get the right food during the camp from the hotel. Here is the excerpt from the book:
DAYS AFTER ARRIVING, WE HELD A FOUR-WEEK TRAINING CAMP in Jamshedpur, a city around 200 miles west of Calcutta. The team’s manager – the logistics man, if you like – was a Bengali guy called Santo Mitra, who was a big player in the 1970s. Before we set off, he asked if he should go a day early, to make sure the facilities were OK. ‘Great idea, Santo,’ I said, pleased at the professionalism.
We took a four-hour train ride to Jamshedpur, arriving late afternoon. I asked Santo if I could see the facilities. ‘No need, coach,’ he said. ‘Wait until tomorrow.’ Fair enough, I thought. It was getting late. It could wait. The next day, we went to see the pitch. It wasn’t bad – decent grass, running track, concrete terraces.
‘And where are the players staying?’ I asked. ‘In there,’ said Santo, pointing at the main stand. I went into the stand. There were six or seven rooms with bunk beds in. Water dripped down the walls. The ceilings were stained. The air was sticky.
‘Santo,’ I said, ‘the federation has picked thirty-five players. The camp lasts four weeks. You thought this was OK?’
‘The players are used to it,’ he replied. ‘It was fine in my day.’ ‘But you played when Noah was building his ark,’ I said. I went back to the Tata Football Academy (a team sponsored by the steel conglomerate) in Jamshedpur to phone Alberto Colaco.
‘This is the national team,’ I said. ‘The players can’t spend a month living in a stadium.’ Alberto told me I could book new accommodation, if it was within budget. I found a hotel and spoke to the owner. I explained what we needed – nice rooms, light breakfast, healthy lunch – and the next morning, everything was perfect.
We came back for lunch, and it was awful. The food was too heavy. You can’t train all afternoon with a bellyful of dhal. ‘My friend,’ I told the owner, ‘if the food isn’t better tomorrow lunchtime, I will
check out all thirty-five players.’
The next day, it was the same: nice breakfast, heavy lunch. We checked out. It sounds fussy, but I was trying to change the culture. I wanted excellence. I wanted to make the players feel important; to show them that we, the staff, would give them everything they needed to perform well. You can’t pick the country’s best 35 players then give them basic facilities. On the pitch, I want my players to give me everything. So off the pitch, I look after them.
Incidentally, Stephen would lead the Indian U23 team, which included three overage players including star man Bhaichung Bhutia, to Vietnam for the LG Cup right after the aforementioned training camp and would win the tournament, which was something of a vindication of his methods.
There is a lot more about Stephen Constantine that is revealed in the book. The official launch date is 25th July but the publishers are offering FREE WORLDWIDE DELIVERY throughout July on orders from decoubertin.co.uk.