Indian National team head coach, Stephen Constantine doubts future of Indian football
Stephen Constantine returned to manage the Indian national team for the second time 6 months ago but feels the sport’s future is in trouble under current circumstances, according to Firstpost. India have played 4 matches under the Englishman’s management during which time the team has faced mixed results. His campaign started off on a good note where in his first two games India beat Nepal 2-0 on aggregate, but it soon took a dive for the worse as he lost 2-1 to both Oman and Guam.
The failure against Guam though was the one that caused a lot of disturbance as the tiny island nation was ranked 33 points below India at that point. Along with the lack of infrastructure and grass root development, the 52-year old also blamed the odd timings of the Indian league as one of the reasons for the result.
Constantine spoke about the problems in an interview where he said: "If we do not change, Indian football will die and that is clear. We are already at death’s door and that is why we are (ranked) 156. So if we do not align our calendar with that of the rest of the world, then what are we doing? What do we expect to do? We can have a hundred youth academies but they are not in competitive leagues. If they are not competing at the same time as the rest of the world...," he trailed off implying that the youth would struggle in the future.
Constantine highlights the importance of having one proper league
"FIFA dates for the whole world are the same. We should be looking to start our calendar in August so that players come from pre-season in July and leagues start in mid-August. And so by September, they will have had recovery, pre-season and four to five competitive league matches. That means they're in tip-top condition for international opponents.”
“Our players start in October. So, in September we’re doing nothing and then we expect to qualify for the World Cup and Asian Cup. This is not logical. China changed, Japan changed, Iran changed, why can’t we?" Constantine questioned.
FIFA have recognised the I-League as the India’s premier football tournament, and the league starts in January by which time most of the leagues all over the world would have played half of their fixtures. India also has the ISL which is commercially more successful than the I-League, but its presence causes a lot of disturbance to the flow of the other league. One of the actions AIFF had to take was to scrap the Fed Cup completely so that the I-league would not be disturbed.
"If you look at our situation at the moment, we have two leagues and while I am not against the ISL, for me it’s the beginning or the start of the leagues which is an issue,” said Constantine.
“We need one league and I am prepared to help in any shape or form, but we need to implement. If we don’t, then I don’t see a future in Indian football."
The formation of one league would be very advantageous to AIFF, as it would be easier to organise and govern the proceedings of the sport. Plus if ISL were to merge with the I-League, more money would be injected into the league which can cut the infrastructure gap.
Youth development crucial in improving India
Constantine who has coached countries like Nepal, Sudan, Rwanda and Malawi highlighted the lack of proper youth development in his speech.
"The first time our players see a coach, let’s say even a great coach – they’re 13 to 14, and that’s 10 years behind pretty much every country in the world,” said the Englishman.
"We don’t have football in many states. We don’t have organised football even in states where the game is played. No youth leagues either. In Germany and Spain they went to districts and said U-13, U-15 and U-17 leagues – you will play this system. Why? Because we are paying for it, organising the league and controlling the coaches. Did anybody have a choice? No. But we can’t do it because we don’t control what happens in the states," stated the frustrated head coach.
The manager is currently training the Indian team for the World Cup qualifying match against Iran, at the DSK Dream City in Pune. The team will face Iran at Bangalore on the 8th of September, ahead of which they will play a friendly against Nepal in Pune on the 31st of September.