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…………………