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UEFA Pro License Holder and FIFA Instructor

Welcome to my Blog

Here is where I share my latest news and of course my views on all things football....

By Stephen Constantine, Apr 4 2018 05:53AM

A 1-2 loss at the hands of Kyrgyzstan away ended our AFC Qualification process and our 14 game unbeaten run. It had to end sooner or later, and while I am disappointed with both the result, and the end of this historic run, it is time to move on. We have 10 months to start preparing for the Asian Cup Finals in the UAE in January 2019 and there is a lot to do.

Going forward we have to understand a couple of things. Firstly we need to prepare well and ensure that come January we have a fully fit and competitive team. To do that, we need to have competition among the players. We had in our last squad 11 under-23 players, which again shows you that we are developing players and getting them to pressure senior players for places in the squad.

However, just because the player is there, that does not mean he is ready. There is a huge gap from our domestic leagues to the International arena and it takes time to make the change. If we throw in a player too soon he could have a bad game, lose his confidence, and then we will have to wait and see how he recovers - or if he recovers. By giving them a few minutes here and there, it allows them to adjust to the pace and quality he is going to face at international level.

I know many people want this player or that player, and I understand everyone wants to see the player they like in the team, but it is not always possible. In our last game we started Ruattara who started for the National Team for the first time, and overall I though he did okay. Thapa came on and did well, as did Jerry. Udanta was another one – so that’s four under-23s involved. In our previous game against Mynamar, Germanpreet, Jerry and Udanta started, with Thapa coming in off the bench. So we are slowly giving them time and experience in international games, in the hope that come January they have some experience and we are not going to the unknown.  

Of course we want to win those games before the finals, but we also need to make sure we are giving the young players their opportunity so, come the finals, the afore-mentioned players will hopefully be regular players in the senior team. I would also add there are several more players from the U23s that are also very close to breaking through.

No doubt winning in Kyrgyzstan would have been great, and we would have gone to our highest ever FIFA ranking, but we finished top of the group and that is the first time India has ever done that. On the rankings, let me give a small explanation - as many of you have asked me and some of you don’t know how it works. 

There is a mathematical formula that is involved and some of the variables involved are Strength of Confederation. So if you play a team from UEFA, and you beat them, it is worth more than beating a team from your own confederation. If the game is in the World Cup you get more points from winning that game, because of the importance of the competition. So when we play Laos and Nepal and win in a qualifier, it gives us a certain number of points. However if we lose that game - even in a friendly - we are going to lose points because of their FIFA rankings.

If we want to play China in a friendly, we are below China, so they look at the game and say ‘Okay, if we play and lose to India, we will lose points and go down in the ranking.’ Even a draw would lower their rankings, so they don’t want to play us - the same way we don’t want to play other teams that are below us. The problem is, we need games and we must have a regular number of games during the season so that we are not inactive for two or three months. It is vital that we play, albeit against teams that we know we are going to beat. I really hope that explains a little about the FIFA rankings.

The other thing about the rankings is that, if you haven’t played for a while you will fall as teams around you are playing. So New Zealand, who have most of their players playing in Europe, are below us - because they don’t play too many games in the International window.

The rankings are only important in two areas for me.

1) The higher you are, the more chance you have of not going into the pre-qualifiers, like we were doing in 2015 when I arrived.

2) Your positioning in pots for the AFC and FIFA  competitions draw is sometimes important. We could for example be in pot 3, which means we avoid certain teams.

Going forward, we have already sent out correspondence to teams for future friendly games and of course the Intercontinental Cup will provide some very stiff competition. These are the games that we will look to get experience for the younger players, and deal with playing bigger teams. The pressure we will be under will all help us prepare for the Asian Cup. By playing the so-called bigger teams it will show us where we are in terms of development and naturally we are going to be under pressure for long periods of time in those games.

We must learn to deal with this and be able to respond so it is vital that we get the experience of playing these sides and understand what is going to face us in the Asian Cup. The draw is in a few weeks, and once that is done we will reach out to other associations to try and book some games between now and January.

Finally to all of our fans: after a very long time we have again qualified for a major event and deservedly so. It was for sure a struggle - a struggle that could not have been done without you the fans supporting us through thick and thin. We have achieved our goals, now we need to buckle down and prepare. We, India, needs to be at these events every time not every once in a blue moon. Remember in 2015 we were 173 in the world, had not won the SAFF, and had a squad with an average age of 31, compared to now which is 24. We have achieved our highest ranking, 97, for a very long time and we have a group of players who are hungry to have success with the Indian National Team. None of this happens without you, and of course the AIFF. So get behind the players, and the team, and let’s go to the Asian Cup and cause some problems!

Jai Hind

By Stephen Constantine, Feb 20 2018 07:32AM

After accepting my second contract extension with the All India Football Federation, I will have the longest tenure of any foreign coach in Indian history, with a total of seven years (2002 – 2005; 2015 – 2019).

I am of course immensely proud of that, and of our accomplishments in both stints. This time round, qualifying for the Asian Cup in 2019, winning the SAFF, and taking India to its highest ranking in modern history, 96 are all great achievements. I really could not have done this without the support of the AIFF, my staff and, of course, the players.

We have - as usual - a very hectic and busy schedule, starting with our last qualifier of the Asian Cup, away to Kyrgyzstan on March 27th.

Let me start this year’s blog with the tentative calendar for our senior and U-23 teams, remembering the FIFA dates which this year are:

March 19-27

June 14–July 15 World Cup (no internationals are permitted in this period )

September 3-11

October 8-16

November 12-20.

We then of course have the Asian Cup Finals from January 5th to February 1st 2019. National team camps will be as per the FIFA guidelines where applicable.

There will then be a break in the ISL season so we can have a few more weeks to prepare for the Asian Cup in January.

So there you have a rough guide to what is coming up for us this year, a lot of football to be played and remembering the need for all the clubs to prepare and get ready for their own seasons.

It is going to be a tough season and hopefully an injury-free one as well. As we head into the start of this schedule in March we already have several players out with injury and or suspensions.

We are going to need all hands on deck going forward. As always with me, it is the players that are willing to play for the team and do the work that interest me.

We have shown over the last two years that the current group of players are fighters and will give everything in every game.

The door is open to any Indian player who is willing to do the work, the job we need him to, in the National Team.

In closing I would like to say a special thank you to all our fans around the world – your support has really kept us all going. You have been with us through thick and thin - Jai Hind!

By Stephen Constantine, Dec 10 2017 08:43PM

To everyone all over the world I hope 2018 is the year that you want it to be ………….as we close out on 2017 I have much to be thankful for.

It has been an amazing year as Indian National Team has for sure taken huge steps forward. Of course this is not possible without the tremendous effort of my players and back room staff, they have all been quite amazing as well. To have qualified for the Asian Cup with two games to spare was huge, but to still be unbeaten over 13 games spanning 2 years is well special.

Looking back on our recent results we are actually 18 games unbeaten out of our last 20 games. We have introduced some 36 new players into the national team and with a very decent group of U23s knocking on the door it has been a very productive couple of years. The league in India is continuing to improve and we will hopefully continue to get better.

What does 2018 have in store for us, well there it is going to be quite a busy program staring in March of course with our last AFC qualifier in Kyrgyzstan on the 27th, of course we go into that game already qualified but I can assure you we will not be taking it lightly. We have the Asian Games to consider and several other possible opportunities to play International fixtures as we prepare for the Asian Cup in January 2019.

But for the next few weeks I will be home with the family enjoying the quality time with them, lastly but by no means least my message to all our Indian fans thank you so much for your support it is of course Massive to see you all every game where ever we go and we really do appreciate it ………..Jai Hind

By Stephen Constantine, Oct 17 2017 11:08AM

We did it !!!!!!! qualifying for the Asian Cup in the UAE in January 2019 has become a reality and in doing so we have managed to beak a number of records and in my opinion become the best National Team India has ever had bar none. We beat Myanmar away after 64 years, we won an AFC qualifier away for the first time in 15 years, we won 4 games in a row away for the first time ever and 36 players have made their international debuts since March 2015 and we are 12 games unbeaten. We have managed to get to 96 in the FIFA rankings our best position in 20 odd years, it has been very tough but ultimately we have achieved our goal Asian Cup Finals.

I have to first start by saying that without the backroom staff this would not have been possible and they have all contributed in their own way to the success of this team. Of course the biggest credit must go to the players they have given me everything they had and more. When you put all of the above mentioned ingredients together and little bit of luck good things will happen.

It has as we all know been a very long road which started with us having to play Nepal in March 2015 in a home and away pre qualifier for the group stages, fortunately we managed to win the first leg at home 2-0 and drew 0-0 away enough to get us to the group stages. Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan and Guam respectively made up the group which also served as the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. Through the play offs we managed to get to the third and final group stage and 4 consecutive wins in the first four games saw us guarantee our place in the UAE in 2019 on October 11th 2017 a special day in Indian football.

Of course things have not been easy and when you are sitting at 175 in the rankings for sure there is a reason for that, over the last 3 years we have managed to do just that. Now with the Asian Cup to look forward India is where it needs to be among the best in Asia, but we still have a great deal to do to stay at that level. There are some fundamental things that we need to be doing in order get where we want, firstly the level of coaching must improve and secondly our coaches must focus on the development of the Indian player not through leagues or cups but through enjoyable games. We need players to be able to pass, to dribble to turn with the ball this is the only way forward, not trying to win a league at the U8s 9s and 10 years of age. There is enough time for this later, now we need players who understand the technical aspects of the game then once they have a good understanding of that you move to the next level. Ton Byer has been saying this for years’ manipulation of the ball at home with Mum or Dad using both feet are just somethings that can be done at home. It is imperative that we seize this opportunity that we have at the moment, the U17s World Cup the new format of the ISL and of course the National Teams success in qualifying for the Asian Cup are all catalysts. We have good stadiums now we have training facilities we must make the most of this in order to continue to develop.

On a personal note it has been a very tough but immensely satisfying few years and while I did not see us qualifying after 4 games I did feel with all the work the players, staff and of course the guys back at the AIFF in the Football House have done over the last few years we could qualify. There is one thing that I have not mentioned and I cannot close without mentioning the fans, we have had most of our home games in Bengaluru and of course the West Block Blues have been huge also the Mumbai lads are always there for us when we play in Mumbai and the crowd that turned up in Trivandrum for the SAFF was huge so to you all I thank you as does everyone at the AIFF players and staff alike playing for you in front of you is an honor…………………

By Stephen Constantine, Jun 20 2017 10:50AM

We took another massive step in the right direction with a 1-0 win on the 13th of June after a very tough game against a very good Kyrgyzstan Republic team. Prior to that game we also won 2-0 in a friendly against Nepal which now means we have won 8 games in a row and 13 out of the last 15 games an incredible streak even if I do say so myself. Of course I am not getting carried away but it is really pleasing to see Indian football get some recognition after years of well not doing very well. Today we are top of Group A with 6 points from our first two games and we have 4 more games to go, I think we are going to need two more wins to be absolutely sure of booking our place in the finals and we still have a bit to do.

Our next 3 AFC qualifying games in 2017 are as follows,

September 5th Macau away

October 10th Macau home

November 14th Myanmar home

The last game of the group will be on March 27th 2018 in Kyrgyzstan.

Our future is in our hands and we must remain focused with feet firmly on the ground until it is mathematically done, then we can all go nuts for a bit !!!!

I am very proud of this group of players who have evolved over the last 3 years into a team that believes we can achieve something special, I remember saying that it will take some time before we are where I want us to be. Unfortunately, we had to learn on the job as it were and those 4 2-1 losses in the qualifiers against Oman, Guam, and Turkmenistan twice were all part of the process. The support from the AIFF has been a huge benefit, allowing me to do what I thought best for the team and giving me the resources to make things happen cannot and should not be underestimated. The fans in India have been well, what can I say I do not use the word immense too much but when I refer to the Indian fans I have no other words to describe them.

Of course we are still some way away from achieving our goal and there is work still to be done, our league issue must be resolved and quickly, I am of the opinion we need a parallel league at least for the next couple of years. We need to give the I league clubs the opportunity to adjust to the ways of the ISL as to be honest this is how football is going to be moving forward. Of paramount importance is that clubs recognize that football will stand still for no one, move with it or get out of the way. We need to have the two leagues running side by side so that more Indian players are playing, our National U19s and U17s will as many say surely be signed up by the clubs, but how many of them will actually see the pitch? how many of them will play 90 minutes’ week in week out and this is exactly what they need games! We must give these players a pathway to succeed and come in and take the places of the Sunils, the Eugeneson’s and others when their time has come to hang up their boots. In the meantime, lets enjoy this moment and remember how it makes us all feel because if we remember this feeling it will that much harder to give it up.

We are currently in a good place but let us not forget where were several years ago and remember if we do not continue to build and focus on the road ahead it does not take much to slip back into the past.

On a personal note I will be releasing my autobiography sometime in July, there are of course two chapters on Indian football. It was the idea of a certain Owen Amos who has been a friend of mine for several years. Thanks to him and of course the publishers, deCoubertin Books, it actually took Owen almost 3 years to find anyone to publish it so as you can see I seem to always have to do things the hard way. The book is due out in July and if anyone wants to pre order then please go to the link

I really hope it is a good read for you all.

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