Assembling Indian Under-23 football team in matter of days difficult: Stephen Constantine

Indian football head coach Stephen Constantine has rued the lack of "pathways" among various age group sides in the country.

Published: 26th June 2017 04:52 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th June 2017 08:12 PM   |  A+A-

Indian football team coach Stephen Constantine (File |PTI)


NEW DELHI: Indian football head coach Stephen Constantine has rued the lack of "pathways" among various age group sides in the country, which he said has often led to assembling of a team just a few days before a major tournament.      

Constantine said the U-23 team, which he is looking after at a national camp at the Ambedkar Stadium here, assembled just a few days prior to the continental qualifiers in Qatar mid next month.      The senior national team has been on a break after beating Kyrgyzstan 1-0 in the Asian Cup Qualifiers on June 13, giving Constantine time to take charge of the Under-23 side.   

 India are clubbed alongside Syria, Turkmenistan and hosts Qatar. Constantine said the boys under his charge could find it difficult in the tournament as they have been together for just 10 days or so.     "I will tell you the difference of Qatar, Syria and Turkmenistan from this Indian team. They (Qatar, Syria and Turkmenistan) must have been together for the last four-five years. We are together for just around 10 days. That is the difference," Constantine told PTI.    

 "We do not have that continued pathway from Under-17 to Under-19 and from Under-19 to Under-23. Some of these boys have been with each other in Under-19 teams but most of them are not. So, it is difficult to make it a team in one week or 10 days. We will try to win matches, we do not go there to lose but it is difficult as these players are not long enough together," he said.      

"Getting together 28-30 boys from all over India and pulling them together in a team is a stress. We are trying to make it a team now," said the 54-year-old, who began his second stint as senior team coach in March last year. Constantine was senior Indian coach in 2002-05.      

He also said the Under-17 boys under Luis Norton de Matos need a lot of work ahead of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. "They need a lot of work. They had quite a lot of time together now. Luis has been with them for the last three-four months. Let us see and I hope they give a good account of themselves. But it will be difficult for them, very difficult."    

 Constantine was with the Under-17 boys for a brief period between the sacking of Nicolai Adam and appointment of Luis de Norton. Constantine is happy about the proposed domestic structure. He feels that two leagues running parallel will be beneficial for Indian football as it will give more Indians opportunity to play in top competitions.      "

My understanding is that there will be two parallel leagues, the team that wins the I-League will go on to play in the AFC Champions League (play-offs), the ISL champions will play in the AFC Cup play-offs.

"Now, since the I-League champions are going to the AFC Champions League, it is the bigger league of the two, that is my understanding. There will be a Super Cup which will be a knock-out. Teams (from ISL and I-League) will be competing each other for the Super Cup or whatever Cup they call it," he said.      

"More Indian players will be playing if it is two leagues are running parallel. At the moment, in the ISL, I believe there are two players under the age of 22 playing and the same in the I-League. That means there are only four Indian players. In some leagues, after 10 minutes they take off the U-22 player and replaced by a senior player. How is that helping Indian players. How are these players (U-23) players going to play? Constantine said with more clubs in two leagues, Indian players will have extended playing time and that should help.    

 "If we have 10 teams here and 10 teams there, there is the more opportunity for more Indians to play. And for the national team, that is the best scenario because more Indian players are playing means more choices, more competition means the bar goes a little bit higher. "Look at the Under-17 now, even these Under-19. They will be signed by the clubs but they are not going to play under the current scenario. If it is a parallel league, they will have to play them. This is what needs to happen, our U-19, U- 21 players will get to play week-in week-out, so that they can start creating competition for places.      

"So for me, if these happens for the next two years, and after that I don't know, if it is one league, fine, but for now I think this is a good solution put forward by Mr Patel and by ISL."      

Talking about Mohun Bagan and East Bengal deciding not to be part of the ISL, he said, "Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are our two of the biggest clubs, they should be involved in Indian football without a shadow of doubt. How that comes in, one league or in two leagues I don't know. 

"What I know is that the parallel leagues will suit us, it can give us time for both parties to align themselves and do the right thing for Indian football. Everybody will benefit."


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