Indian football team coach Stephen Constantine justifies team selection, says criticism against him is personal

India's national football team coach Stephen Constantine has faced considerable criticism for constantly ignoring in-form players from the squad, but the Englishman has justified his selections on the basis of the national team playing to a system rather than individual performances.

Coach Stephen Constantine involved in a training session at Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai. AIFF

Coach Stephen Constantine involved in a training session at Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai. AIFF

Constantine called up 30 players for the preparatory camp ahead of the Intercontinental Cup, which starts from 1 June, but didn't include players likes Mandar Rao Dessai, Michael Soosairaj, Rahul Bheke and Sukhdev Singh, who had shown consistency throughout the season.

"I need a certain type of player to do a certain job with the national team. If you score a couple of goals in ISL or I-League, that's great, but how does that translate to what we (team) need and then on international level? A player is good in the league, but how will he perform against Iran or Afghanistan. This is where I have to make a judgement call," Constantine said while outlining his philosophy on selecting players during a media interaction on Saturday.

Constantine reasoned that some players might perform well for their clubs, but it doesn't mean they can do the similar job for the national team. International football, according to Constantine, involves a completely different 'system and philosophies'.

India remained unbeaten in their Asian Cup qualification campaign till the last match, where they suffered 1-2 defeat against Kyrgyzstan. Despite India finishing on top of the table in the group, there were concerns with the way team performed in the final game while questions were raised whether Constantine's tactics were working for the team.

Constantine said that criticism against him is mostly personal and doesn't hold much ground considering India enjoyed a 13-game unbeaten run and qualified for the Asian Cup while also winning SAFF Championship and Tri-Nation tournament.

"We have about 15 players who are smashing the door down to get into the senior national team. Who in their right mind can complain about the team or the guy who is leading the national team. So if you have a complain then its only because you don't like me. Or you don't like the we play football. People who think about Indian football, they're behind me since the day I came in. To them, I say 'thank you!'" Constantine said.

Constantine also spoke about the mentality of Indian players and how it needs to change for the team to improve in the long run.

"Our first problem is the mentality of players. I spoke to Danny Bath and he has had six days off, and said he needs to do something. 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 also need to do that too."

Apart from India, the Intercontinental Cup will also feature New Zealand, Kenya and Chinese Taipei. The selected players are currently attending the national camp in Mumbai, which will host the tournament.

"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,’’ Constantine said about his opponents in the tournament.


Updated Date: May 20, 2018 13:22 PM

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