Constantine: 'I want to put India back on track'

The former Nepal boss, who had a good stint with the Rwandan national team, has opined that he is only interested in long-term success...

Stephen Constantine, the newly appointed coach of the Indian national football team, has expressed his desire to see the Blue Tigers regain past glory and elevate themselves to from the bit part role they’re playing in Asian football to being one of the biggest influences in the continent.

As revealed, Constantine had been appointed the coach of the Indian senior team alongside the U-23 team as well. Constantine was the head coach of India from 2002 to 2005 wherein he led India to win the LG Cup in Vietnam and also finished runners-up in the Afro-Asian Games.

Now, speaking exclusively to Goal, Constantine believes the only reason he chose the position, is because he wanted to make a difference to Indian football.

Questioned on what convinced him to take over the reins of the Indian team, after leading the African nation of Rwanda to unprecedented heights in the FIFA rankings, setting a record for the biggest climbers in the process, the 52 year-old elucidated, “There are many things, I have great respect for India and enjoyed three years there, I am saddened that the national team is where it is especially after we had gone some way to restoring its pride and I want to put India back on track. The people in India were always very good to me and I love the culture. On the football front I think India has the potential to be player in Asia and I want to be a part of that.”

Speaking exclusively to Goal again, a month ago, Constantine revealed India’s position in the FIFA rankings table belied itself, as he didn't believe the calibre of players was so low. Quizzed now, if he could achieve a near top 100 rank as he had done so in his last spell as coach, Constantine remarked, “I would not have accepted the position if I didn’t think I could make a difference, there is a reason we are where we are and that needs to change. In order to change we need to look at what we are doing now and how we can improve, of course some difficult decisions will need to be made but we cannot stay as we are. In short we want to be inside the 100 that for me is our long term goal.”

The Cypriot-British coach also remarked that he’d rather evolve a definitive style of play and develop players from root up, than target just short term success with trophies ala winning the Nehru Cup etc. “Ten years ago we had instant success wining the LG Cup, good performances in Asian Games and so on, the question is what did we do after that? Where is the next generation of Bhaichung Bhutias? We need to do well and we need to start winning games. We need to develop our own style that suits us and reflects us.”  

Staying on the style of play, he was asked to reply on observations that fans are now obsessed with the brand of play – viz. Tiki Taka, as ensconced by Barcelona, and if the Indian national team's senior players were indeed capable of adopting it.

“Of course, the tiki-taka brand of football is beautiful to watch as evidenced by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. However, in order to achieve it, the foundations have to be corrected and it takes years to build the same. I would hope that we play in our Indian way and do not artificially try to copy others. The coaching at grassroot levels is key to this with regards to what we are teaching the young players.

“From such programmes, the players get a chance to play in the I-League and the ISL. So you hope that by the age of 16, the players have a decent technical ability and then it is matter of the physicality, tactical ability and of course mental ability,” expounded the coach.

He was however, non-specific when questioned on the coach who’s philosophy he in-turn looks to adding, “Well I think there are a great many good quality international coaches and all of them have their own philosophy as do I. I don’t think you can copy someone else’s is style of the way they do things I think you can learn from everyone.”

Finally, questioned, if the additional responsibility of coaching not just the senior side, but the junior sides as well, would be a difficult proposition for the seasoned coach, he concluded, “It is not really a problem I have always done this in all my International posts, the coaching staff will be the same as it is for the senior team so that helps with the continuity of things. I expect there will be several players that are playing in both teams and again that will also help so it is not too difficult to handle.”