You can dub it as the start of the season and it kicks-off with an International Friendly. It kicks-off Nepal’s International Football campaign - to rise from the debris and tragedy that shook it earlier this year.
You walk up to National Coach Stephen Constantine and before you even attempt to speak, he gestures you to stop.
“I would like to welcome Nepal to India to play their first International Friendly post the tragedy of earthquakes,” he murmurs. “I have fond memories of the lovely Himalayan Kingdom and I share the pain of the people. Nepal will always remain close to my heart.”
He pauses long and eventually takes a deep breath. “Nepal have always been a difficult team for India. They have shown in the last two games that they can fight. That’s the character of the Country. It’s a Country of fighters,” he utters.
“They will give us a difficult game that’s what we want. We want to be stretched to the wire. The general perception stays that they are not that strong as people sometimes love to go by the FIFA Rankings. But no one knows more about their spirit than me.”
“I am very happy that they have shown their fighting spirit once again and coming back to play International Football,” this time Constantine says it assertively.
A day prior to the match, Constantine, whom at times, or maybe all time you would sympathise for his never say die attitude and tenacity, leans back for that split second and reflects on the fitness of the squad.
“There were a few Teams that have been training but the vast majority of the boys have done little since the completion of the Hero I-League. And now with the GPS systems in place, none can cheat,” he maintains.
Holicharan Narzary has been released after an appendix problem
“So there’s a huge issue not only from the fitness point of view of also the lack of match fitness. We have already released Holicharan Narzary because of an appendix problem,” he further informs.
“The match against Nepal is an opportunity for us to play an International Game in preparation for the Russia 2018 Qualifying match against Iran,” the British Coach adds. “We are at a stage where we need games so it’s important for us to approach this match in a professional manner.”
The mornings at the DSK Shivajians Campus are just so pleasant. You peep out from your room to be greeted by the lush of the natural turf and the artificial turf, which in fact, even has flood lights. The DSK Academy Team and the DSK senior team all stay and train at the Campus.
In a radius of 100m, the National Team has the luxury of a snazzy swimming pool, a multi-gym, two grounds lying one next to the other and even a Theatre to screen films. Add to that the attention being paid to all the minute details by the DSK staff headed by Mr. Shirish Kulkarni, the care just cannot get any better.
DSK facilities best in India: Constantine
Constantine waves his hand around again. “We have such wonderful facilities at a walking distance. Where in India will you get this? And most importantly, the authorities here want to use it in the right manner,” he pronounces.
So when will the squad be trimmed, you query. “Let me have a look at the boys and how they stand up in the match against Nepal. I will take a decision after that,” Constantine declares.
Post training, someone waves from behind the fence. “Coach, how are you?” he shouts. “Hey, what are you doing there? Come here - on the field,” Constantine shouts back. The National Team Players realising, sort of rush to greet Tomba Singh as the former ‘AIFF Player of the Year’ runs in to meet Constantine.
“I have signed for DSK,” Tomba mentions as the Guru and the disciple hug, and then chat. “Living legend,” Sunil Chhetri quips from a distance.
With the boys and Tomba walking back post training to their respective rooms, with the sprinklers on and darkness enveloping the hills at a distance, Constantine speaks to himself. “What a Player,” you overhear.
Some five minutes later, Constantine and Sports Scientist Danny Deigan stay engrossed in the GPS details. “The Players can’t cheat anymore,” you remember the Coach saying it earlier.
The kick-off at the Balewadi Stadium on August 31 (Monday) is at 7pm.