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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, 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

By Stephen Constantine, May 26 2015 11:21AM

In less than a month the World Cup /Asian Cup qualifiers begin and our quest for glory with a home game against a very good Oman side on June the 11th which also coincides with my 20th wedding anniversary !! I will of course be fully focused on the job at hand and my wife Lucy can expect the usual number of Roses, 20 in this case . It will be a very difficult game but we have a group of young players who want to do well and I am optimistic we can get our campaign off to a good start. Of course with Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Guam there will be no easy games for us and we will need to be at our best in all the games if we want to get anything at all. My schedule has been very hectic these last few months and I have spent more time in the air then on the ground given the number of flights I have been on. I now have a much better idea of what we have in terms of ability and of course a clearer picture of what we need to do going forward.

Robin Singh in action against Nepal
Robin Singh in action against Nepal

There will of course be some faces in the coming games and they will need time to get used to the pace and quality that is International football, but I can assure you no matter what happens we will fight to the death and we will not stop pressing, pushing and trying to make things as difficult as we can for any team we face. We are entering a new phase in India and we must take advantage of this wave of interest in the beautiful game here and look to build on things. Our U17 National Team have recently appointed Nicolai Adam who like me is someone who does not like to lose and will work hard to help the players, then we have Lee Johnson who I have brought over with me from Rwanda and he too is another coach who will demand and get the best out of the U19 players. So the thought of those U17 /U19 players getting quality coaching over the next few years have a wonderful opportunity to make their mark not only in India but abroad as well.

I have also set up a Scouting Network that I hope will aid in the quest to find more players for all the age groups and at the very least we can expand our pool of young players. To help me do this I have appointed Abhishek Yadav as the Director of National Scouts who will oversee the operation for me and Lee Johnson will act as the Technical Scout with Regional Scouts in each State. Abhishek has offered to do this free of cost in order to help us and the AIFF with regard to costs and this is also a very commendable act and much appreciated. Obviously the Regional Scouts will get a basic salary and bonuses if and when they deliver the goods! It is an ambitious project and it will not work over night a lot of work has to be done and it will be, but again we need time to get things up and running the way I want and in every corner of this great land. We will start with a handful of States to see how it goes and then take it from there, within 3 years I would like every State in the country to be covered by one of our Regional Scouts and every player that dreams of playing should get the opportunity. In July we will also recruit an old friend of mine called Derek Bragg who is a top class professional scout, he will come to India for a few days and pass on his knowledge in how to scout. All of our Regional Scouts will attend the workshop and will benefit greatly from this and really help them to understand what to look for in terms of the type of player we are looking for.

Players will report on the 3rd of June and all being well camp starts on the 4th as build up to the game on the 11th. It will be a big test for as I have said before and am really looking forward to it , the game will be in Bangalore and hopefully the Blue Fans of Bangalore will be there in numbers to support the team.

All the best

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


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