INDIA NATIONAL TEAM HEAD COACH

Stephen Constantine

Stephen Constantine UEFA Pro Licence Holder

Stephen Consatntine Football Soccer Logo AIFF

Welcome to my Blog

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

By stephencon, Apr 15 2015 03:19PM

The Groups for 2018 FIFA Wolrd Cup Asia
The Groups for 2018 FIFA Wolrd Cup Asia

Yesterday afternoon in Malaysia the draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia took place as well as the first stage of the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE. Sitting at home in Cyprus I waited to see the draw live and online and was joined by my wife and the 3 girls. Waiting for your team to be drawn is almost as exciting as seeing the other teams drawn in your group and well am really looking forward to the challenge.


Starting with team Meli Iran what can you say about this team they are one of the giants of Asian football consistent and full of quality all over the pitch. I have had the pleasure of going to Iran several times; the warmth of the people is what strikes you the most although I don’t think we will see this at the Azadi stadium !!


Oman is for me another quality team and on there day they can and have beaten most teams; we open the qualifiers on June the 11th against them in India. My 20th Anniversary is also on June the 11th and both me and Lucy know where I will be! We may have to bring the anniversary forward or hold off until after the game!! Oman will be another difficult game as all the games will be for us but like everything else in life if you do what you need to do and do it right then anything can happen.


Guam although lower down in the ranking for me are one of the most improved teams and are managed by Gary White another Englishman and a friend. They will be organized disciplined and will not be an easy game home or away they have a good young manager who has been there for the last two years and they will be ready to play that’s for sure.


Turkmenistan is another one of those teams where you don’t hear too much about what is going on there but have a tradition of producing players and will be another team who on their day will cause teams problems.


At the end of the day though it really is all about us and what we do, we have as I have said before not done ourselves any favors these past few years and this year we had to qualify for the qualifiers. Looking forward I am really pleased that the AIFF is allowing me to change a few things and I am sure that in the coming weeks and months we will start to see the benefits. Of course there is a great need for everyone to pull in the same direction and so far so good. We of course need the support from the fans and really need to create an electric atmosphere at our home games so get ready folks the Blue Tigers are coming to play and may the long journey to Russia continue ………..


        The road to Russia began last month ......
The road to Russia began last month ......











By Stephen Constantine, Mar 23 2015 11:15AM

2007 was the last time India made it to the group stages of the World Cup Qualifiers and the Blue Tigers are back !!!


The message before training session begins
The message before training session begins

2007 was the last time India made it to the group stages of the World Cup Qualifiers and the Blue Tigers are back !!! After 8 years in the wilderness India can at least dream of the World Cup. How or why has it come to this is in the past what we do going forward is my main concern. The draw for the 12 worst teams in Asian was made and we were drawn against of all teams Nepal my old team. A home and away tie with the 1st leg in India. Guwahati was chosen as the venue for our home game and we began training in earnest on the 5th of March. I had a training camp of 5-6 days to prepare before the game not really long enough especially as I was working with the players for the first time. A list of 50 players were registered by the AIFF and along with my Assistant Coach Venky we reduced the list to 26 who then reported to camp in Guwahati.

Joining the team were Danny Deigan my Sports Science Coach and Ramos my Goalkeeping Coach we got, I must also mention the great job done by the entire backroom staff . Right from my Assistant Coach Venky (Venkatesh) to my physio Gigi George to Team Doctor Kiran (Kulkarni), equipment Manager Sanjay (Dhyani), Masseur Liaqat (Ali), Team Manager Srinivas, and Video Analyst Shanka everyone has made a contribution. Obviously the players need time to adjust to me and me to them but am delighted by the response from them and also from the staff there was a great atmosphere and I really enjoyed working with the players.



First leg: The starting 11 against Nepal
First leg: The starting 11 against Nepal

Going into the first game there was a great deal of pressure on the players and everyone connected with Indian football as if were to slip up and not qualify that would mean no competitive football for at least 2 years!! The 1st leg itself was one of initial hesitation and a question of the players getting to know the system and although we were in control for most of the 1st half we were not too convincing. We missed several chances early on but going into half time it was 0-0. At half time I just told the lads to relax and not to worry about the goal and that it would come, and it did Twice! Two strikes from Sunil Chetrri was enough to win the game after some great work from the team as a whole. Both goals were a result of determination and the pressure we put on Nepal in fact one of the goals was from a Nepal free kick outside our 18 yard box.Unfortunately we missed a penalty which would have made it 3-0 and given us that much more breathing space for the away leg. A recovery session was in order the day after the game which consisted of some light work for the starters followed by ice baths and then a flight to Nepal the following morning.


The second leg could not have been more different and it was as I expected with Nepal putting as much pressure as they could. The pitch was terrible as was the training ground we had used the day before the game and though I am not using that as an excuse it really was a very bad surface. We were under pressure for long periods of the game and were very fortunate that we did not concede anything early on. We had one or two opportunities ourselves and did enough overall to win the tie. As the game went on Nepal started to feel the pressure alot than us as they needed to score two goals to send it to extra time. After some difficult moments the sound of the referees whistle came giving us the qualification to the group stages and the opportunity to build for the future.There is a great deal to do before the first games in June but I know where I would rather be at this point in time. So a 2-0 win at home was enough to see us through and as we await the draw for the group stages we also wait to see how far we have moved up the FIFA rankings finally getting out of the worst ranking in our history.

I would also like to add a very important point, as I try to re build the team I had called up 11 new players to the squad 8 of whom made their international debuts and am very pleased with that. The message is play well for your clubs and you will get a chance, so I am sure there will be some more new faces as we go into the qualifiers.


Sunil Chetrri celebartes the opening goal. Robin Singh battling away
Sunil Chetrri celebartes the opening goal. Robin Singh battling away

Recovery session
Recovery session

It has been a very hectic time for me since arriving in India and after 2 months still have not had the time to look for a place to stay! Having said that I am loving every minute of it and really appreciate all the support I have been given by the AIFF and everyone in India.I have been travelling the very long length and breadth of the country looking at players, facilities as well as a host of other things. I am also trying to set up a scouting network that will cover all of India, and not just look at National tournaments as we are doing in the past. As you can imagine this is not an easy task but one I am determined to do in order for us to find more players. A work in progress that is for sure but taking the first step to do that is important and we have done that. In closing a special than you to all the Indian fans who are getting behind the National Team, together we can do great things.

……… Jai Hind




I

By stephencon, Feb 12 2015 01:45PM

GETTING STARTED..


What a couple of weeks it has been since arriving in India, I arrived on the 31st of January at 9am had a quick shower and change of clothes before heading down on another flight to Goa. Met several old friends and before heading off to see Salgaocar Vs Sporting Goa which resulted in a 2-0 win for Salgaocar. I then met several of the coaches in the I League and spent the next day looking at the training facilities in Goa. Our U 23 who are going to be playing Olympic qualifiers will train there and our senior team will train in Guwahati as we prepare for the first leg against Nepal on the 12 of March. The U 23s will be under the guidance of Savio Mederia as the senior camp will going on at the same time. They face Uzbekistan, Syria and Bangladesh in Bangladesh on the 27,29 and 31st of March so a really busy time.

Ten years on and there are a lot of changes re organisation, staff and in general things have improved which is great to see. The problem that we still have is the number of games our players are having to play. I know some will say they play 60 odd games in Europe and yes that can be the case however the training facilities, the playing fields, and the overall health care for the players is on another level and we must take this into consideration going forward.

The first game cannot come soon enough for me and I am really looking forward to seeing the players and getting down to training, I am as enthusiastic now as I was when I took over the first time in India and looking forward to doing well. There is a great deal to do however and although a lot of things have been put in place there is always something more you can to push things along.

Nepal will not be an easy game home or away and we are not in a position to show anything but respect for our neighbours, and having coached them for two years I know the mentality we will have to be at our best to beat them.

As I write this I find myself my in England need to get my employment visa and a new passport, passport secured now it is a matter of waiting to get visa and then back to India and down to work.

I want to thank the AIFF for having the faith in me and brining me back to India in what I hope to be exciting to be exciting times ahead for us all……



By stephencon, Jan 21 2015 10:01AM




10 Years Ago with the Indian National Team
10 Years Ago with the Indian National Team

After 10 years, 4 national teams, a year in the English Championship and the Greek Super League not to mention several years in the Cypriot top league I will be heading over to India at the end of this month. I am really excted and looking forward to getting down to work.

India presents a huge challenge and another opportunity for me to do what I do best build teams, I know this is going to be a tough job for a number of reasons and it is a job that I will give everything I have, as I always do. Of course things have changed over the last 10 years and while there have been some very good steps forward there is much to do going forward.The introduction of the ISL has seen Indians embrace the beautiful game like never before, it has given new impetuous and now we must all pull together and get India back on the right track.


I must say however that it was not easy to leave Rwanda after we had done exceptionally well this past year, but after looking at everything that is happening in India and that I had the opportunity to be part of the process it was something I could not turn down.I of course would like to wish the players and the Association in Rwanda continued success and hope the climb up the FIFA rankings ladder goes on currently 68.!!


I am due to arrive at the end of this month and am really looking forward to getting down to work. One thing I will say is this, if we are to be successful it is going to take the entire Indian football community to make it happen


JAI HIND


By stephencon, Dec 23 2014 09:05AM

Some of the historic team of Rwanda
Some of the historic team of Rwanda

On December 18th 2014 Rwanda made history when the end of the year FIFA rankings were released with Rwanda placed at 68 in the world!! What a way to end the year ….I can’t thank the players enough for all the hard work, blood sweat and tears they have given to the cause. Honestly I have nothing but admiration for them and they deserve all the credit for this historical achievement. I must also thank the entire coaching staff that I had from the Kit Manager Peter to my assistant coach Vincent Mashame, of course I cannot fail to mention Nuhu and Mousa who made up my medical team as well as Ibrahim Sissoko or Ibby as I call him there work has been outstanding. The unsung hero is a guy called Bonnie Mugabe who is my team manager, what a job he has done and I can’t how much I have appreciated him and the work he has done. No job is too big and he does it with the minimum of fuss and simply gets on with the job, Mr Bonnie Mugabe thank you my man you are the best.



68 in the World & Best Mover of the Year
68 in the World & Best Mover of the Year


It has not been an easy time here in Rwanda and there are a great many issues that really need to be sorted out if the meteoric rise is to continue, I won’t go into the details as I don’t believe in airing internal problems, but there are one or two points that must be mentioned. Player’s allowances, and the dire need for the Rwandan National team to have its own kit sponsor are but two issues that for me require immediate attention. FEERWAFA and & the Government need to step up here and do the right thing by the players that is the least that they can do given what the player have done this past year.

Obviously I am absolutely delighted with the progress we have made in this past year and well am very proud that I was able to make history in Rwanda. I have always believed that I can do a job for any team I work for provided I am given a free hand to do the things I feel need to be done. I have worked all my career with limited resources and fully understand the financial constraints that clubs and national associations face. I always feel that if there is good will then good things will happen regardless of the financial situation and people can be very creative when they want to be.


On Saturday 20th of December we played an international friendly using our under 23 side against our neighbours Burundi, who used their senior national side the game ended in a 0-0 draw. Of course I would have liked to have won the game but the purpose was to begin to prepare the U23 or the Olympic team for the qualifiers in April, and this was our first game. We didn’t start particularly well and Burundi controlled things with their experienced players and had a couple of half chances in the first and had a couple of half chances in the first half. We made a couple of changes at half time and within minutes of the second half we had two great chances to score but the Burundi keeper made two back to back outstanding saves to deny us(he was the man of the match). As both teams introduced substitutions we began to have more of the ball and we started to pass the ball around a bit better. When Erneste Sugira hit the underside of the bar with a few minutes to go with a header you got the feeling that it wasn’t going to happen today and perhaps when all is said and done and a 0-0 draw was the right score. Another 3-4 youngsters made thier international debut and I make that around 10 or 11 new players that will go on and serve the national team for several years to come. So this bodes well for Rwandan football and long may that continue.


So as Christmas fast approaches I am heading back to Cyprus to spend some quality time with my family and really looking forward to seeing everyone. It has been 3 months since I last saw my girls and 8 months since I was in my own home !! I would like to thank everyone who I have worked with this past year there are too many of you to mention but everyone at Apollon Smrynis is a must a wonderful example of all that is good in football from fans to clubs officials.


Finally I really need to thank my wife Lucy 20 years and counting she has endured everything from my being away for months on end to looking after our three girlson her own, with all the problems that entails and well she is an absolute diamond thanks Babe………I also want to say a special thank you to my 3 lovely daughters Paula, Christiana, and Isabel who have also had to suffer with not having their Dad around to see them every day , to take them to school and all the mundane things that we take for granted. I am extremely proud to be their father and well enough said.


In closing I would really like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year ..............






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