Hiring Stephen Constantine as National team coach will be a step back for Indian football
Unsatifactory results from former Indian national football team coach, Wim Koevermans forced the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to look for replacements. The appointment of the Indian coach has always been a long and perhaps tiring process for the authorities. For the past few years, the AIFF has looked at big name foreign coaches to take charge.
However, this time around, a different aspect was added to the mix. The new coach was expected to have substantial knowledge and experience about Indian football. The likes of Trevor Morgan, Eelco Schattorie, Ashley Westwood and the former New Zealand manager Ricki Herbert were interested in working with the national team.
Who is Stephen Constantine?
Born in London of Greek-Cypriot descent, Stephen Constantine was the coach of the Indian national side from 2002 to 2005. During his tenure, the Indian side won the LG Cup in Vietnam and also finished runners-up at the Afro-Asian Games. After leaving the job, he went on to coach national teams such as Malawi, Sudan, Jamaica and Rwanda.
His good work with the Rwandan national side didn’t go unnoticed as the AIFF jumped at the opportunity to offer him a new contact
Proven candidates applied for the job
All the above mentioned candidates fulfilled the AIFF’s list of conditions. They previously coached in India and had the necessary experience to add value to the national team. Furthermore, their salaries were well within the AIFF’s budget. Trevor Morgan was the Coach of East Bengal and also the assistant at Kerala Blasters. On the other hand, Eelco Schattorie was instrumental in doing well with a cash strapped United SC side. Hence, both of them knew more than just a thing or two about Indian football.
For a long time, it was believed that Bengaluru FC coach Ashley Westwood would be given the job. Few newspapers claimed that he had already signed a contract and would be joining the national side, at the end of the calendar year. During the ISL, speculation was rife, that Ricki Herbert would be the next Indian coach. He had managed North-East United FC in the Indian Super League (ISL). He also coached New Zealand in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and was possibly the most experienced of the lot.
However, the AIFF’s Technical Committee headed by the former Indian Captain Baichung Bhutia had other ideas. Based on the recommendations of the Committee, the AIFF decided to offer former manager, Stephen Constantine, the job once again.
The intricacies of Indian football have changed since his last tenure
Should Stephen Constantine accept the job, he will be returning to the Indian national team, after 10 years. So, has the AIFF done the right thing in offering him the job?
The answer to that question is no! A lot has changed in Indian football over the past 10 years. The likes of Baichung Bhutia, Rennedy Singh, Climax Lawrence and IM Vijayan no longer don the blue jersey. There have been several changes in the domestic circuit. The ISL has brought to the forefront, a number of young players, who deserve a spot in the national side. Also, during his absence, India has reached highs and graced new lows.
The national team has won the Nehru Cup and the AFC Challenge Cup. They have played against the likes of Australia and South Korea in the Asian Cup. But on the flipside, we have also recently sunk to the 171st position in the FIFA rankings, which happens to be our lowest.
If the AIFF is looking for someone, who is well acquainted with Indian football, then Stephen Constantine is just not the man. He may have been successful during his first tenure, but there is no denying the fact that there are other candidates with more knowledge about Indian football. The composition of the team has changed, the manner in which they play has changed and furthermore, the competition has increased.
Under such circumstances, both Westwood and Herbert would have been appropriate. They are associated with the domestic circuit in India and have the necessary experience. Ricki Herbert in particular could have proved to be vital for he has the experience of managing a side in the World Cup and also ending the campaign unbeaten. Truth is, not many people can achieve that.
If Stephen Constantine does eventually take the job, it will take some time for him to adjust and frankly, we do not have much time!