Stephen Constantine blasts Team India critics; justifies team selection

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Ajith Namboothiri
The Indian national team gaffer has lashed out on his detractors ahead of the inaugural Intercontinental Cup...

India are set to host the very first edition of the Intercontinental Cup, featuring the likes of Kenya, New Zealand and Chinese Taipei in two weeks. 

The tournament kicks off on 1 June and India have begun their preparations in Mumbai, where the quadrangular event will be held. Head coach Stephen Constantine addressed the media at the venue where he spoke on a variety of issues including the criticisms aimed at him for his selections and the nature of India's opponents during friendlies. 

"I think the tournament is very important for our progression and our development. Contrary to popular belief, we have always tried to get friendlies against bigger teams; you learn more from playing against better teams. But the bigger and better teams do not want to play us for the same reason we don’t want to play smaller teams.

"It’s good that New Zealand are coming. They are a strong team. Chinese Taipei have improved in the last four to five months under Gary White and I know Kenya will be strong and physical. Any team coming from Africa will be a challenge for us.’’

Stephen Constantine on Kuruniyan

Constantine, who returned to coach the Blue Tigers in 2015 for a second stint, has received flak for his team selection in recent times. Justifying his picks, he explained, ‘’I don’t do anything by accident. Some of you may not like that I didn’t pick this player or I didn’t pick that player and that’s fine. Everyone has their opinion and when you are in this position, you will decide. But I built teams in Rwanda, Malawi, Sudan and I am doing it here again for the second time.

‘’I need a certain type of player to do a certain job with the national team. We aren’t facing another Indian team. We are facing a different level. If you score a couple of goals in the I-League or ISL, that’s great but how does that translate to what we need at the international level?

‘’(Regarding) some players that I don’t pick, it’s not that I have anything against them. It is that they do not do what we need them to do in this national team. At club level, maybe they do but it is a completely different system and philosophy here.’’

The 55-year-old further responded to his critics and remarked, ‘’In the three and the half years, we went 13 games unbeaten and qualified for Asian Cup. We are the reigning South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) champions and won the Tri-Nation Cup. We have about 15 players who are smashing the door down to get into the senior national team. Who in the right mind can complain about the national team or the guy who is leading the team?

‘’If you have a complaint, it is because you don’t like me or you don’t like the way we play football. I don’t care. Apart from Germany, during the 14-game unbeaten period, there was no other team in the form that we were. So how can you, in the right state of mind, say that you don’t like the coach or he should leave? They must be mad.

‘’The people who think about Indian football, they are behind me. They have been behind me ever since the day I came and I am thankful to them.’’

Stephen Constantine

The former Nepal boss also believed that the Indian team lacks the mentality to work hard and keep themselves fit. 

‘’Our first problem is the mentality of our players. I spoke to Danny Bath and he said he needs to do something in his six days off. Our boys don’t have that (mentality). Some of them have had six weeks off. I said to them that I’m in the gym, doing something every day except Tuesday. I need to prepare mentally and physically to come here. The players need to do that too. Some of them are exhausted while some haven’t had a rest for a very long time.

‘’The Bengaluru boys had a game on May 16, reported on May 18 and haven’t done anything. They trained today, they might train tomorrow afternoon but we might keep them out because they have had a punishing schedule. While we have to look after that, I have to get them fit. Hopefully, we will have enough time by June 1,’’ he signed off.