A team is known by the way it plays. If the Class of ’92 under Sir Alex Ferguson had free-flowing football in its DNA, the Barcelona system under Pep Guardiola had tiki-taka football as its gene. You can always watch a Jose Mourinho team and you know they’ll attack from the wings, would counter-attack fast and would have an almost non-porous defence. These are several attributes a coach writes on their sides.
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Coming to Indian shores and talking about lesser talented players’ management, there’s been one man who’s always been taken to cleaners by the critics and the same man has always managed to perform better than his predecessors, Stephen Constantine. The Indian National Team coach led Rwanda, a small African country to the 68th rank in FIFA ratings, which is no mean achievement.
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Stephen began his first stint as Indian coach in 2002 and managed the team till 2005. The current scenario in Indian football has grown a lot since 2005. With the advent of ISL, players have developed, new talents have erupted and have been fearless on the big stage and thus, Constantine was appointed by the AIFF in 2015 to lead the National Team and plan a national setup to take the game ahead.
India defeated Puerto Rico 4-1 on 3rd September, 2016 in one of the most dominant displays ever by the National Team. One man, off-the-field, who deserves a lot of credit is Stephen Constantine. Constantine has transferred the team into a well-oiled machine, which enjoys the victories and handles the defeats well (and sometimes too well). The way the team played last evening was a treat to watch. The players looked to be applying a perfect game-plan, rarely seen in the National Team setup in the past.
Constantine’s contract with the team gets over next year, in February. We believe he deserves a contract extension and a longer rope to execute his plans well for not just the national team but the all-round growth of the game in the nation. Here’s why.
#1 Changing the myriad situation of Indian Football
Bob Houghton, former Indian National Team coach had infamously said, “You can remove the coach and you can bring Guus Hiddink or Jose Mourinho tomorrow and you will still be (ranked where you are)”.
This comment shows a sad and brutal reality about Indian football and also pushes us to take a few hard and changing steps. When current coach Stephen Constantine came back to head the National Team in January 2015, he wanted a planned setup to be laid deep to the grassroots level, which would not just make a successful current team, but also would ensure a challenging crop of youngsters pushing for spots and the unhindered growth of the game.
Thus, in tandem with AIFF and IMG-Reliance Group, Constantine has laid a new plan of action till the grassroots level and has demanded a Professional League for the nation’s growth as a footballing power. Work is underway and the AIFF has planned 2018 as the starting year of the three-tiered league running for seven months which also guaranteed Indian National Team playing on International match days. Also, a ‘Champions Cup’ is in the pipeline to garner more attention to the game.
As soon as professionalism and money gets into a sport, and starts building a fanbase, quality is a byproduct. This has been a norm in India and for something like football, this is sure to happen.
“Look, I spoke about all I wanted on this topic when I came back to India. All I would like to say now is that it looks like it will happen and that's a good step. We can't have everything done in one day but I'm told that there is a plan going forward and I think that's a good sign and I will leave that there.” Stephen Constantine said when asked to comment on the football calendar. This says that a plan is in place, it’s about time we had one.