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AFC Asian Cup 2019: There are raw deals, then there's what Constantine has dealt Rahul Bheke

Bheke was the ISL
Bheke was the ISL's Player of the Month in November
Modified 01 Apr 2020, 17:29 IST

Your country is playing in the biggest tournament on the continental stage. Your country has qualified for that tournament after eight years. In the 18 months leading up to the tournament, you have been the best in the country, in your position. You'd expect to make the flight for the tournament, wouldn't you?

Well, in most cases, you would. Evidently, if the country in question is India and you are Bengaluru FC's Rahul Shankar Bheke, you cannot be that sure.

It's really a shock, again, that Bheke has been ignored despite doing the very most that any footballer can to convince the ones making the selection for the national team.

With absolutely no disrespect meant though, it is just what you can expect from Stephen Constantine. Honestly, every squad announcement from Constantine is met with furore and backlash for certain players not having made the squad. In this case, he really does not have a defence, and yet, you just know that he will make a case for having selected the best squad he can, when he hasn't.

The 34-man probables list for the Asian Cup contains 10 defenders - two right-backs, five left-backs and three centre-backs. Guess what, it doesn't have the best right-back in the land.

Is he the best in the land just on reputation? What about his form? How about being the ISL's Player of the Month for November? Enough form?

What makes it worse for Constantine is Bheke's versatility. He is a right-back, he's robust and full of energy on the flanks. But he's displayed enough proof that you can put him anywhere across the rearguard and he will do a job for you.

Sample Bengaluru's last four games in the ISL. In the game against the Delhi Dynamos, he started at left-back, then moved to right-back, then moved to centre-back. In the game against FC Pune City, he played the full game at centre-back and even popped up with the winning goal.

He defends, he assists, he scores, need anything more?
He defends, he assists, he scores, need anything more?

He played both full-back positions again, against NorthEast United. And then, against Mumbai City FC's rampaging winger Arnold Issoko, Carles Cuadrat decided he needed Bheke's tenacity at left-back. So he started there. He put in an assist - a left-footed cross - for Udanta Singh to score as well.


Moreover, Bheke is someone who has played every minute in the ISL for Bengaluru FC. It's just puzzling why someone of his calibre could not make it to even the probables' squad. So what is the rationale? Why is Constantine going into the tournament without a player as good as Bheke is? Why is he not using the one player that empowers him with so many different options?

To be perfectly honest, his usual excuse does not work in this case either. Constantine has often rumbled about how he already has a core group of players and how it's unwise to change that before a big tournament.

Well, even if this is just a probables list and not the final squad, how can you justify having some new faces in the squad then, while leaving out Bheke?

Of India's defenders picked, how many can claim to have had a more consistent run of form than Bheke has? Sandesh Jhingan is undisputedly one, but you can make a case for Bheke ahead of literally all the nine others.

It is pretty clear that Bheke has been dealt a huge injustice. It is clear that Stephen Constantine has delivered another shocker, as he has to many other Bhekes over his tenure.

Knowing Bheke, it is also clear that there will be only one response from the man. When he's pushed to a corner, he comes out punching. For Bengaluru FC, that can only mean a Rahul Bheke willing to prove his point all over again.

Once again, just how has he been deemed to not be among the 34 best players in the country?

Published 12 Dec 2018, 17:45 IST
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