KOCHI: While the Indian Super League is putting quite a few domestic players under the spotlight, national football team coach Stephen Constantine stressed here on Friday that only those suiting team needs will be selected to play for India.
Speaking to reporters at the team hotel two days into the preparatory camp for the SAFF Championship, Constantine said: “The door is open to everybody, and it’s not personal. I need a player who’ll come in and do a specific job. And if he cannot run, he cannot turn or if he’s too slow; all these things are taken into consideration. I don’t care if they start for their clubs.”
His reaction comes a day after Bengaluru FC refused to allow their players to attend the national team camp that began at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium the other day.
The 40 probables named by Constantine includes several players, including Kerala boy Jain Punchakkadan who plays for Army XI in Kolkata, who are not part of either the ISL or the I-League.
Citing the example of Sporting Clube de Goa midfielder Rowlin Borges, the coach said: “He has a very good chance of making the final 20 because I think he is a good player and will be a good addition. You can have a player with great ability but (if) his attitude is no good, then it’s going to go waste.”
On the same note, the Englishman, in his second stint as Indian coach, said that the current selections are a natural progression of the decision to widen the scouting network to find players for the national team.
“I believe a great deal in the Indian player. We have selected boys from states and the army, and I don’t care where they play. I only care that they want to play and that they are Indian. If they can do the work, they will have a chance to play. The SAFF Championships gives us the opportunity to look far and wide,” he said.
Despite having posted a morale-boosting win over Guam in the World Cup qualifiers recently, the coach does not see India as favourites in the SAFF Championship in Thiruvananthapuram from December 23.
“I don’t consider us favourites. Afghanistan is training in Qatar. Sri Lanka came here a few days ago and they’ve been training for three months. It’s the same with Nepal. Is it as important as the Asian Cup or the World Cup? Of course not. But it is a local tournament where we play our contemporaries. It is a tournament we want to win. However, this gives us an opportunity to blood some youngsters,” he said.