Stephen Constantine wants national coach to have say in selection of coaches of all age group teams
Indian football national coach Stephen Constantine made it clear that the senior national team coach must take control of the national sides across all age groups.
The departure of Nicolai Adam from his position as India's U-17 football team coach due to alleged mistreatment of players has raised a few eyebrows, particularly about the timing of the sacking. With the mega event just months away, the U17 team has been left in a state of limbo, having to acclimatise to a new style of play, philosophy and methodologies under the newly-appointed coach, Luis Norton de Matos. It is clear that Matos and the youngsters have a mountain to climb before they adjust to a particular system in such a short period.
Given the situation, India's national men's team coach Stephen Constantine wants the national coach to have a say in the selection of coaches of all national age group teams. Earlier this month, Constantine spent about a week with the U17 squad.
"My personal opinion is that the national coach should lead all national teams and I mean lead in terms of philosophy, selection of coaches and methodology because they (players) are going to come to him.
“Now, you get the argument that what happens if they (coaches) are sacked? What happens with the U17s is that they are getting to learn different systems anyway. The philosophy may change, but there needs to be that continuity,” Constantine told a group of journalists on the sidelines of the senior national team’s training camp at the Andheri Sports Complex, in Mumbai.
The Englishman believes India should look up to Myanmar, who they are slated to play later this month, where German coach Gerd Zeise and his support staff have taken the authority of the national teams across all age groups. "I think a classic example is Myanmar. They qualified for the U-20 World Cup on merit, their senior national team's average age is 24 and they have had the same coach for eight years."
Under Constantine, the national team rose to 129 at the beginning of the year, a jump of six places – without even playing – from 135 in December. This is the country's highest ranking in eleven years.
Having missed two international friendly windows, the 54-year-old seemed glad to have gotten an extra week with the players ahead of their international friendly against Cambodia on 22 March and the all-important AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Myanmar.
"We had a few players who have come in injured, we have tried to help. I have to thank I-League for giving me that extra week to prepare the way we needed. Unfortunately, we had the AFC Cup, which took away 9-10 players from having them for the full week. We lost a couple of days with those boys, but in okay condition," he said about the preparations of the team.
"The work ethic and discipline we have in the national team is amazing. We have a couple of coaches come in from outside and they are amazed at the attitude of Indian players. With that kind of attitude, we are taking the right steps forward in all areas of Indian football, we are on a good path," he said.
Long gap but manageable
On 3 September 2016, it was a moment to savour for the fans when the Indian football team successfully managed to thump a higher-ranked Puerto Rico 4-1 in a friendly match at home. Given the gulf in rankings, there was a lot of pressure surrounding the national team but Sunil Chhetri, Narayan Das, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Jackichand Singh inspired India to glory. But one cannot neglect the fact that it has been seven months since the emphatic win, and the team have not played together thereafter.
Constantine admitted that the break had an impact on the link-up between the players who trained at the national camp under his observation.
"It (fitness of the players) does not match up, but we don't have access to players. Obviously, when they go back to clubs, it is different level, the intensity is different, we are working on improving that. We have an app, we know whereby what every player is doing in every club, they fill the information and I get the information. So, when the player comes in, we know what he needs to do. So we can recover them quicker than before. But, they need to be doing more work at the clubs," he said.
Constantine also stressed on the need to have the consistency in the Fifa calendar, having missed out on the October and November international friendly windows.
"We should always be playing in the FIFA calendar dates. We have a game next week. After that, we have confirmed games with Lebanon, Palestine and up to October, we have quite a good schedule. So let's look forward, let's look at what's coming. What happened, happened," he signed off.
Goalkeepers: Subrata Paul, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, TP Rehneesh.
Defenders: Pritam Kotal, Nishu Kumar, Sandesh Jhingan, Arnab Mondal, Anas Edathodika, Dhanpal Ganesh, Fulganco Cardozo, Narayan Das, Jerry Lanrinzuala.
Midfielders: Jackichand Singh, Udanta Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Milan Singh, Md. Rafique, Rowllin Borges, Halicharan Narzary, CK Vineeth.
Forwards: Jeje Lelkephlua, Sunil Chhetri, Daniel Lalhimpuia, Robin Singh.
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