National Coach Stephen Constantine isn’t someone who is willing to bask in the glory of the team winning nine international matches on the trot (including the unofficial match against Bhutan).
As India gear up to play Macau in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Qualifiers, Constantine mentions about the “lesson learnt,” the “wake-up call,” his “healthy respect” for Macau, taking chances on the field, the impact of Sports Science on the present squad and much more.
How has the preparation been?
It’s been good. The best part of camping in Mumbai is that we never face any obstacles. The people are always willing to go the extra length to make their National Team feel comfortable. And let me tell you that it just wasn’t about the attitude of the people. During our stay in Mumbai, it rained cats and dogs but never ever was a single practice session cancelled. The ground condition has been superb and let me remind you that played International matches on the turf. The boys trained hard and we don’t have any injury concerns either.
How much do you fear Macau?
I think ‘fear’ is not the right word – I would rather term it as ‘healthy respect.’ Let us not forget that they will be playing at home and in front of their home crowd and like all other teams, they will be playing to win at home.
Perhaps on paper, all may label us to have the advantage but unless you go and play, and do the right work on the pitch, you won’t be able to come back with a result. We need to continue doing the hard work on match day and need to finish it off.
What are you doing to keep the boys away from being over confident?
The game against St. Kitts and Nevis was a wake-up call for us. We made a mistake from a defending corner and we paid for it. To me, it was a lesson learnt as we need to be more focused and determined. Also, we had chances to win the match but as we didn’t take it and had to settle for a draw.
What I mean to say is that you won’t get that many chances against Macau. So we need to be on our toes.
How much did the two International Friendlies help?
Immensely. Obviously, I would have liked to win them both. But they were preparatory games for the match against Macau. I have always insisted on playing an International Friendly prior to a Qualifier and since the season hasn’t kicked-off, AIFF were able to squeeze in an extra game (smiles).
You have always stressed on sports science during your coaching tenure. How much has the team benefitted from it?
I have been a following sports science for the last 10 years. It helps you get the best out of your players, and also keep your best players on the pitch. The information which comes in from Danny (Deigan) allows me to push some players, and even rest some players in some cases. It generally keeps us in a position from where we can control the welfare of our boys.