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UEFA Pro License Holder and FIFA Instructor

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

By Stephen Constantine, Jul 6 2016 06:39AM

After almost 18 months into my second stint in India it is Mission Accomplished as far as I am concerned and before I outline things I really need to say a special thank you to all the support staff. Assistant Coach Venkatesh / Team Manager , Goalkeeping Coach Ramos, Sports Science Coach Danny Deigan, Assistant Coach Lee Johnson, Physio Gigy George, Doctor Sreejith Khamal, Kit Manager Sanjay Dhani, Masseur Liquait, Match Analyst Shankar Sigamani, Media Officer Nilanjan Dutta, and last but not least our National Team Coordinator Shantha Gopinath, there are many more people behind the scenes but the above mentioned are the ones that are with me on a daily basis and have been with me since I arrived. Thank You guys really appreciate all the hard work and sacrifices that you all make

with some of the staff after winning the SAFF Championship

Coming into India for the second time was is a huge challenge and while I feel we have achieved a great deal there is still a long way to go before I feel that we are in a position to regularly compete with the likes of Iran, South Korea, Australia and the real big hitters in the region. Eighteen months ago we were in our worst position ever in the FIFA rankings 180 and football and something needed to be done.

The first thing for me was to instill some confidence and game discipline which was severely lacking, to do this though we needed to change our approach and the feeling of comfortably. Creating competition for places was a must and giving opportunities to players who showed the right attitude was a must and in doing so we have given 28 players their International debuts in this period. Some of them have taken the opportunity with two hands and others need a little more time. The stand out names Rowlin Borges, Sandesh Jhingam, Gurpreet Singh, Ghanesh Dhanpal, Bikash Jairu, Sumeet Passi……………and well the list goes on .

Our key objective though was the Asian Cup and our first task was to beat Nepal , not winning that 2 legged affair would have meant no official qualifiers for the next 3 years !! so in eccense we were qualifying for the qualifiers !! and we did so going through 2-0 over the two legs. This was the first time in 8 years that India had qualified for the qualifiers !! The draw was as I expected a tough one Turkmenistan, Iran, Oman, and Guam respectively. As I mentioned the games were very difficult for us and made even harder when in some cases we did not have time to prepare the players. With so many young players getting their debuts it was always going to be that much harder but we needed to change things. I was looking long term and trying to build for the future, and although results didn’t go our we lost 4 of those games by the score of 2-1 I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We now have a larger squad of players to call upon than ever before , our average age is 24, and there is competition for all places.

A large part of this success has been the Scouting Network that we started when I arrived and we are now seeing the benefits of this with some of the players coming from little known academies, second division teams , state teams and even the army !! Appointing Abhishek Yadav as the Director of Scouting was a very productive move and he has done a wonderful job for all our age groups.

Making history as the first Indian team in 15 years to win a qualifier away 1-0 in Laos.

After beating Laos 7-1 on aggregate we are where we wanted to be in the last stages of the AFC Cup qualifiers which begin in March 2017. I am really proud of the players all of them they have given me everything and while we have had a few results where we can say we could have done more overall they have been good. So looking forward the lads get a well earned break and time to be with their families and recover from what has been a hectic period for them. You need to consider that some of them are playing for 2 separate teams in 2 different leagues then being selected for the National Team as well.

After the break a tour of the West Coast of the United States will begin in mid August and give us much needed exposure to other styles of play with 2 Internationals due to take place and 2 games against US clubs.

Trying to make appoint to our strikers it must have worked we won 2nd leg 6-1 with goals from 5 different players.

Looking back It was a tough 18 months and I want to thank all the Indian supporters who have shown their support and I have had it from every corner of this great country the scenes in Trivandrum after the SAFF Win, the fans in Bangalore at our qualifiers were immense and the many supporters who greet me when I am travelling around the country watching games….

By Stephen Constantine, May 20 2016 08:48AM

Well as expected our efforts to make the final group stages of the AFC CUP are still alive, as we were drawn to face Laos in the June play offs with the first game scheduled to be played in Laos on the 2nd of June. The return leg in India will be played on the 7th of June. As I am always saying there are no easy games for India, and we will have to be very disciplined and ready for two tough games against Laos whose play under Steve Darby has greatly improved. My objective coming into my second stint in India was simple; get India into the final group stages, win the SAFF Championship, and overhaul an aging squad. Although we have had a great many problems too many for me to list here we have in short accomplished almost everything we have set out to do. Of course the two games against Laos are going to be very important and hopefully we can get to the final round. One of our main objectives was and will always be to try and climb the FIFA rankings ladder as this then allows us to go directly into groups. Prior to my arrival it had been 8 long years since India had qualified for any of the AFC / WCQ.

Entering my 16th year as a FIFA instructor I found myself going Mongolia to deliver a FIFA Youth Coaching Course which was taking place in the capitol Ulaanbaatar. The home of Genghis Khan and a country full of history it was somewhere I had always wanted to visit.

The Mongolian Football Federation
The Mongolian Football Federation

The course was over the course of five days from the 10-15 of April and the objective was to help Youth Coaches deliver and understand how we coach and train young players.

The weather was good some days and other days it was freezing with snow falling during one of the sessions. There is really only a period of six months where football can be played due to the climatic conditions.

Standing below the great statue of Genghis Khan
Standing below the great statue of Genghis Khan

Finally after almost 3 months I am heading for a break and to spend some time with my family in Cyprus and the Greek Easter. It has been a long three months and really am looking forward to some quality time at home.

By Stephen Constantine, Jan 12 2016 07:31AM


A great win to start off the year winning the SAFF Championship 2015 although we actually won the final game in 2016!! Beating Afghanistan 2-1 in extra time.

I am really am delighted for the players, staff and fans who were amazing this win was particularly special for a number of reasons, I am the only foreign coach to win the SAFF with India, we won all four of our games in the SAFF, the average age of the team was 23, and we won it without several key players. The 45,000 fans were amazing and must give themselves a huge pat on the back as without their support I am not sure if we would have won it.

Looking back in early December I had decided that we would select a mixed group of players that came from all corners of the country and from different levels of the game.Players were chosen from State leagues, Academies, 2nd division, as well some players who were not selected for the ISL. I can’t praise enough the work of the scouts and in particular Abhishek Yadav who I had appointed as National Director of Scouting when I arrived in January last year and he really has taken things forward. My philosophy in this is simple we need eyes and ears everywhere and we should be constantly looking out for talent at all ages, in all competitions and all across the nation, our motto is if it moves scout it ! So obviously I am delighted that we had 2 army lads involved, an 18 year old kid who was a direct result from my attending the AIFF U19 league, and several others that joined the SAFF camp.

I don’t think going into the competition anyone thought we would get out of the group stage let alone win it! On top of the playing issues we also had all sorts of problems from the organizational side of things, the hotels didn’t have enough rooms, the team buses were often late, no training pitches available and well you get the picture. All I will say is, it was a joke and SAFF really need to sort this out once and for all 7 teams in one venue with 2 unplayable training pitches !

Our first game was against Sri Lanka and we really did get off to a flying start winning 2-0 in a game that we really should have won by 4-5 , the Sri Lankan keeper was my man of the match. Overall I was pleased we created so many chances and we were not made to pay for missing most of them!

Our second game with Nepal proved to be a little easier than I had expected, as in the previous 3 games we had played against them we had scored twice, won only the one game and drawing the other two games 0-0. It is hard sometimes getting players to understand that they need to win their individual battles first before the team begins to function as a team. Nepal taking the lead after 3 minutes was the wakeup call we needed and after that it was pretty much one way traffic. We had made a number of changes knowing we would have to lose by 4 goals or something like that not to make the semi final, the lads who came in responded well. Rowllin Borgess , Zuala are but two of these youngsters who made an impression and am looking forward to seeing them develop further in the coming weeks and months ahead. We ended up winning the game 4-1 against Nepal in a game that will be remembered for the two stunning goals by Zuala. While most people will look at the goals for me the pass for the second goal (his header) was absolutely stunning. Rowllin Borgess picked the ball up in midfield took a couple of strides had a quick look up before delivering a pass that took out 5 Nepali defenders. Zuala who had started to make his run inside timed it beautifully and headed it over the keeper for what was the goal of the competition for me.

Afghanistan were always the hot favorites for everyone to win this SAFF tournament as their experience and quality was there for all to see. Holders of the previous SAFF in 2013 where they had beaten India 2-0, plus 15 of the current squad are playing in Europe obviously gave them a huge advantage. They did not however take into consideration the tenacity or the fitness levels of our young players. This brings me to into the why we need more time with the players in our training camps, as what is required in an International game at any level far surpasses what is happening in our domestic game. To give you an example a team in the ISL trained and played a 90 min game over 5 days, all of this work combined did not equal a single International game!! In other words the fitness levels in the ISL do not compare with what we need at the International level so we are at a huge disadvantage when we don’t get the players. I would say that during the course of the game we in fact were the team that had the most opportunities to score. We hit the post, the crossbar and had several clear chances to score first but as always you get punished when you don’t take advantage. Afghanistan in the 69th minute on a break away from the halfway line took the lead and for a moment things looked like they would go Afghanistan’s way. Fortunately for us we were level within 3 minutes and it was India calling the shots , Extra time came and we didn’t change a thing, why should we the 11 that started were doing well we were having lots of the ball and the lads didn’t look tired. It was in the 97th minute when we made our first change. Our second goal came as a result of a mix up in the Afghans defense and Sunil Chhetri punished them this time slotting the ball home with 15 minutes or so of extra time left.

We managed to see the game out and could have scored a few more as the Afghans went all out to get the equalizer. I cannot describe the feeling when on hearing that final whistle I am really proud of the players and of course Happy for everyone at the AIFF. It is a great lift to everyone involved in Indian football and I must say a special thank you to all the coaching and support staff they have been amazing throughout.

In closing I would also like to say a special thank you to all the Indian fans who have supported us through thick and thin !! We had fans travel from all over the country to support us and it means a great deal to me and the players.


View video:

By Stephen Constantine, Nov 17 2015 08:29AM

Facing the media
Facing the media

After losing the last five qualifiers all be it three of them by the odd goal we finally got a win and our first three points of the campaign.

As always seems to be the case with us we don’t do it the easy way and having to play with 10 men from the 38th minute did not help!

Torrential rain delayed the start of the game and it was still raining when we took our places for the kick off, Guam who had beaten us 2-1 in our first away game in the group had also taken points all at home I might add both against Turkmenistan 1-0 and a 0-0 draw at home to Oman and coming into the game had 7 points.

It was a cautious start from us in the first few minutes as we were trying to settle ourselves down and come to terms with our opponents.

A long ball down our left side saw Sunil Chhetri keep the ball in play and turn the ball back for Robin Singh who performed a perfect Cruyff turn turning his defender before lashing the ball with his right foot in off the underside of the bar giving the Guam keeper no chance !! What a start! That relaxed us a little and we started to pass the ball around and started to get into the game. Then yet another self inflicted wound as Senaj Singh after a poor first touch got himself sent off and we were down to 10 men, all of this in the 43rd minute. At half time we made a change to try and limit the damage and went to a 441 leaving Robin up front to fight on his own, naturally down to 10 men you’re going to have less of the ball and concede possession to Guam.

Guam did have several chances though most of them were long range efforts however 2-3 of those opportunities forced our keeper Gurpreet into having to make a couple of decent saves. We also had our moments especially as Guam pushed forward looking for the equalizer and Sunil Chhetri went close twice the first chance forcing the keeper into a great save with the rebound just falling behind the far post, his second effort was curling shot that went just wide. In the end we managed to hang on and I am very pleased for everyone connected with Indian football as this win keeps our hopes of qualifying alive.

I really want to thank the entire back room staff for all the hard work they have done in keeping the players fit and on the field. I also want to say a special thank you to our amazing fans The West Block who did not stop singing throughout the entire game and in the pouring rain as I have said before you guys are awesome!! Thank you

We now have to deal with the SAFF Suzuki Championship an 8 team competition here in India which starts on the 23rd of December, our first game against Pakistan followed by games on the 25th of December Vs Sri Lanka and the final game of the group stages Vs Nepal. The game will be held in the state of Kerela and I am looking forward to going back there after so many years.

I also want to say thank you to everyone who has tweeted support sent and sent me messages of encouragement as we look to build the new Indian team a team that we can all be proud of in the months and years ahead. I have given 18 players their International debuts in 9 games and while not all of them will go on to have long international careers I am certain that many of them will be the core of the National team for years to come. The foundation of this team has been laid we must now continue to build refine and develop while always looking for new players and keeping the ones we have on their toes.

My last thank you is to the players who although are going through quite an ordeal when you think about what they have to deal with. The two leagues ISL & I league, then the National team, the constant travel, hotels and everything that goes along with travelling the length and breadth of this vast country as well as Asia. They have given me everything and this win is for them .I am so happy for them and look forward to them winning a few more games this year.

By Stephen Constantine, Jun 24 2015 07:28AM

Our World Cup / Asian Preparations did not get off to a good start with two narrow defeats by Oman at home and Guam away both with the score line of 1-2. I am of course disappointed by the results as we deserved something from the Oman game and had a perfectly good goal disallowed late on in the game. We deserved whatever we got in Guam which was nothing and have only ourselves to blame, we started off quite brightly but as the first half wore on you could feel something was not quite right and well there are a number of reasons that we can point to but at the end of the day we did not do ourselves justice and yet again failed to win away from home. India has for a number of years not shown its best and there are a great many reasons why but the main one for me is the lack of a real football culture and the complete lack of youth development throughout the country. It matters not who is to blame the question is what are we doing about it now, we all want to qualify for the top competitions everyone wants that, but if we don’t have the players coming through then how is that going to be possible. Everyone looks to the National Team and of course everyone has their own ideas as to who should be playing and who should not but what many people don’t understand is what is going on around the player, an example would be Romeo who went to Brazil he was in fact on my list to be in my first squad against Nepal but had left for Brazil………my question is why? We had no information he had left and I had to take him off the list so as he would not have to return from Brzail days after he had gone there. Sadly for the player we all know how that ended and so the player has wasted 5 months of his football career for nothing …….I have heard about many other players who people feel should be included in the National team , what people have to think about is can the player they want play the system we use? Is the work rate there? Is the understanding there? , can the player perform, how does he train? There are so many variables to consider it is not oh so and so played really well this week or has scored 2 games in a row he should be in the National team. I have been to more I League games then just about anyone in the country I am at 2 games and sometimes 3 games a week with Venky my assistant coach going to the same amount of games elsewhere so we really do have the whole league covered. I want to win football games more than anyone my future depends on it so I am not going to play a player who I feel will not give me what we need. As always with rebuilding teams there are going to be days when things don’t work out or a player freezes but I have done this many times before in my career, sometimes you can turn things around quickly and other times it takes time but in the end I will get there . Ideally you would like to blood the youngsters in the U23 or U20 but there are so few games at those age groups that we cant do that, so we end up throwing them in at the deep end and when you do that you are not going to get consistency from those players to begin with. They need to understand the difference and the speed at which the game is played at the international level, it is not easy to go from the very slow paced I league to International football so it takes time. My other problem is that we do not get enough time with the players in the national team camps. I had 4 full days before the Oman game as the I league ended on the 31st May camp was due to start on the 3rd of June so we wasted 2 days in Delhi trying to get visas for Guam !! Oman on the other hand had a two week camp and two friendly games against Bahrain and Syria.

With Venky my Assistant Coach in Guam
With Venky my Assistant Coach in Guam

I am not trying to make excuses this is how it is and it is tough for the players the staff and everyone involved no one wants to lose or let down India. I am working as hard as I can to change the players mindset and get them to understand what we need to be doing on and off the pitch, we have bought in Danny who is our Sports Scientist and players are doing things they have not done before so there are alot of changes happening which will help the players in the long term.

Indians Abroad, let me clarify what I want to see happen, I would like the opportunity to select some of the players that are of Indian origin / have roots here to play for the Indian National team, there are a number of players that I have identified who would add great value to the team and obviously improve us as a whole. How can we do this without upsetting the government‘s policies, the recent result against Guam has for sure raised the issue of why we are not allowed to use Indian players playing abroad. This is of course not the long term solution it is a way where we can improve results in the next few years now but and at the same time make sure we are doing the right things when it coes to developing players here in India. The AIFF has begun that process by appointing Nicolai Adam as the National U17 coach and then allowing me to bring in Lee Johnson to run our U19 National team this is giving those players from U15 up to U19 a solid football education which will pay dividends in the ensuing years. My point is that in other countrys this process is happening at all levels especially at club level. So how do we get the goverment to look at this rule so that we can take advantage of Indians who want to come and play , the OCI card is perhaps the best option if our goverment recognzies that OCI card holders can represent India in sports this can solve the problem and we can take full advantage has have all the other countries around the world. Social Media is playing its part and the h #BackTheBlues is playing its part more then 1,000 people have signed this already so lets hope the powers that be can help make a difference.

Going back to the games I will start with the Oman game seeing at that was our first game, it was always going to be a difficult game but we really gave ourselves a mountain to climb going down a goal inside the first minute. We have also added a number of new faces the team as I felt that the whole team needed to be revamped given our recent past and that must be taken into account. In 4 games we have used 13 players for the first time and while that is not ideal it is a necessary evil for us at the moment as we try to reestablish ourselves in Asia. We fought back well and when Sunil Chhetri fired home a lovely goal we looked like we could get something from the game but a silly penalty sent us into the dressing room 1-2 down. The second half was much better and we started to show signs of life and had Oman on the back foot for parts of the second half, a well worked corner saw us equalize and everyone was headed back to the center circle when the linesman put his flag up and signaled offside this a full 5 seconds after the goal went it and no one from Oman protesting!! It was a really poor decision to say the least and though we tried very hard we could not get the momentum back after the disallowed goal which was in the 65th and we were buzzing at that time so anything could have happened. After all the difficulties we faced we could have sneaked a very credible draw so there were some good signs for me.

Signing a ball for a young Indian fan
Signing a ball for a young Indian fan

The much highlighted trip the Army Camp was a great experience ( although it was tough) it did a great many things for us as a team and in the future we will look to bring in experts from other fields that we can learn from to help us improve. I would like to thank the Army again for allowing us to use their facility and of course a special mention to the AIFF Col Metha who kindly arranged and supervised the trip it was truly an awesome day.

Now to the Guam game, of course given their rankings we were supposed to beat them easily!! I will start by saying we did not play well, and Guam deserved to win. Guam used and quite rightly so 11 players who have had some experience in the US professional game, you can talk about what levels they were at but your average American see's his first coach at the many summer soccer campsaround the country from the ages of 4-6 !! whereas our Indian players are lucky if they see a coach by the time there 13-14 so there is a huge gap when it comes to the development of our players and those based in the US.

With Gary White, Guam Coach
With Gary White, Guam Coach

Guam at the end of day beat us fair and square and I have no complaints we did not play as we can and we paid for it. We have talent in India of that I am certain but it is like anything it needs to be worked on. I use the diamond as an example it is found under the ground covered in dirt, rock, and needs to be dug out of the mountain. Then its cleaned, and polished, graded and then sold to a dealer before ending up in the shop window before someone buys it. This is exaclty the same process that is followed all over the world when it comes to players, they all need to be discovered. We need SCOUTS who know where to look, what to look for and can determine how good the player is based on what he already has !! it is a science this process does not happen by accident or by people who love the game but dont know the game there is a difference. We must be more systamatic in our approach, Why dont we have any players starting in European Leagues or even Asian leagues come to that who are born and bred in India ? (Gurpreet could be the first ) the reason is because they do not have the foundation which is formed from the ages of 3,4,5,6,7 years old. We need to be going into schools , and develpoing the culture and you will see what happens if that is done. look at China , Japan and many other countrys it is possible we have the ability lets do it !!!

Thank you for reading.

Jai Hind

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