As the Indian national football team squad started assembling in Guwahati for India’s Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 match against Nepal for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, National Coach Stephen Constantine in a Media Interaction on Wednesday, March 4, stressed on the ‘love for Football in the region’.
“There’s a specific reason why I have come to Guwahati to play against Nepal. It’s because of the crowd,” Constantine elaborated in a packed Media gathering in the largest Cosmopolitan City of the region.
“People love their Football here. We look forward to having a packed Stadium on the 12th against Nepal. I expect all Football lovers to make as much noise as possible and get behind the Players. It’s a very important match for us.”
India first play Nepal on March 12, and then travel to Nepal for the away match on March 17.
AIFF Executive Committee Member Ankur Datta, expressed his gratitude to All India Football Federation for deciding to host the match in Guwahati.
“I am very happy the AIFF has entrusted such a responsibility to Assam Football Association to hold such a prestigious event at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium in Sajusarai,” he stated.
“I am confident that the event will be a very successful one and hope India achieve a positive result and qualify for the next round.”
Meanwhile, referring to a question, Constantine declared the Team has ‘no Captain’ at the moment.
“It doesn’t make a difference. We need to first have a look at the Players. The Captain has to reflect the personality of the Coach and will be of my choice,” he emphasised.
“I am privileged to be the sole Coach in India’s Football History to have been invited to Coach the Indian National Team for a second time. I am honoured,” he later told AIFF Media.
“A lot of work is left to be done. We are in a very difficult position at the moment. It’s a tough match ahead and hopefully, we look to get a result.”
“The set of Players which we had invested in for the Ian Rush Trophy, the Milk Cup, Afro Asian Games during my first stint in India went on to serve Indian Football for over a decade,” he echoed reflecting on the need to think ‘long term’.
Subrata Pal, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Debabrata Roy, Gouramangi Singh, Jerry Zirsanga, Habibur Rahaman Mondal, Vimal Pariyar amongst others were all part of Constantine’s Under-18 squad which had won the Ian Rush Trophy.
Besides, the likes of Baichung Bhutia, Climax Lawrence, Surkumar Singh, Rennedy Singh, Mahesh Gawli, Dipak Mondal, Samir Naik, Abhishek Yadav, who were all part of the Constantine’s victorious LG Cup triumph in 2002, went to represent India in the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha.
“Indians have always loved their Football as much they love their Cricket. I remember over 100,000 fans turning up to cheer for India against Japan in Kolkata for the 2006 World Cup Qualifiers,” he recollected.
Furthermore, the National Coach maintained that the State Associations need to “take real interest in the U-17 and the U-19 Leagues”.
“The best Players will be playing in the Hero Indian Super League. The League is for readymade Players. So it’s up to the States to start focusing on the U-17 and U-19 Leagues and build it for the future.”
The Indian Team will be having their first practice session at the Indian Gandhi Athletics Stadium in Sajusarai on Thursday, March 6.
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)