By Stephen Constantine, Oct 14 2016 07:27AM
As we approach the last set of Internationals for the year we are 137 in the FIFA ranking, an increase of 40 places!...from a 175 ranking two years ago I would say that it is a marked improvement. Our last game was September 3rd against Puerto Rico who were 38 places above us in the rankings at the time, an emphatic 4-1 win ended our international obligations for this year.
Our next scheduled game will be late March 2017 in the final group stages of the AFC Cup with the draw being held sometime in January. Hopefully we get a decent draw and can make it to the UAE where the finals will be played in 2019.
Looking back over the last 2 years it has been quite a ride and am really pleased with the way things have turned out. No, pleased doesn’t do it justice I am delighted and very proud of what we have done. I have to thank the AIFF for allowing me to do my thing and helping me achieve the goals we have. A special thank you to our National Team Manager Mrs Shantha Gopinath as well as all the support staff , starting with Venky, Lee Johnson, Danny Deigan, Ramos, Shankar, Gigy, the Doc Ali our masseur , Nilanjan Dutta our Media officer, Sanjay the kit manager and well everyone in logistics and at Football House Great job guys.
Looking at the results in qualifying one could say we didn’t do that well, but coming in our main objective was to make it to the final group stages, we did that. If we look a little deeper at things you will realize that quite a few things have been accomplished,
FIFA Rankings have improved from 175 – 137
Reduced the average age of the team from 30-24 We now have the nucleus of a team for the next 5-6 years
Have won 9 out of our last 11 games…. A first for India
Qualified for the Qualifiers for the first time in 8 years
Won an official AFC / WCQ away from home for the first time in 15 years
Gave International debuts to 30 new players expanding the pool of players
Promoted 3 U19s and 12 U23s players into the senior National Team
10 of those players coming from the AIFF Academy
Introduced the GPS system for the first time to the National Team which has been a huge benefit helping us keep the players fit, healthy, and on the pitch
Won the 2015/16 SAFF Championship beating Afghanistan 2-1 in extra time…………… JAI HIND
You may be wondering what I do in between games, well besides overseeing our Scouting Network which is being Directed by Abhishek Yadav who has done a brilliant job. I feel you appoint people who are going to make you better and he has done that, by setting up an International portal. The idea is young Indians holding a valid Indian passport can send in their footage and can be scouted. We have already had 3 lads train with our World Cup U17 national team as a result. It must also be said that we have introduced 27 young players into the AIFF academy in the last 2 years. I am also constantly watching games in both the domestic leagues here in India and keeping tabs on our current national team players but also seeing if there are any more players that could add value to the team.
I have been a FIFA Instructor since 2000 and working in a National Team environment gives me the opportunity to deliver courses around the world.
I honestly feel so privileged to be able to travel the world and teach coaches how to coach football, it really is such a rush. Being in a position to show other coaches around the world how to coach their players, see things you would never have dreamt of, and meet people from all walks of life. Put this together with my being able to coach at International level living the dream is the only thing I can say.
Generally depending on your availability you may get 1-2 courses in the year, but so far I have been to Mongolia, Ghana, Bhutan and am due to deliver a course in the N Korea in November.
I am really looking forward to going to the DPR Korea again, I had 3 days there back in 2004 when we played them in an Olympic qualifier with India. This time it will be on official FIFA duty and I will be delivering two separate courses, so hopefully will get to see a little more of the country.
As I write this I am actually getting ready to head home to see my wife and daughters and really am looking forward to getting home. Just to give you a little insight the last time I was in my own home in Cyprus was last April, and the last time I saw my wife and the girls was in the middle of July! So while I am living the dream there is huge sacrifice on both sides of the family and it doesn’t get any easier. This would be a good time to say thanks to the family for putting up with my being away more often than not.
Thanks girls can’t wait to see you all.