THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Subrata Pal named new India captain by Stephen Constantine

Indian national football team
Indian national football team

Picture courtesy: AIFF Media

Change has always been the need of the hour. But one does not need to change completely. The intelligent will merge new ideation with the existing good.

But certain things stay constant and glare at your face every moment. Even as Stephen Constantine’s new-look Indian squad tirelessly, enthusiastically and willingly shape up to merge the new with the existing good, the current FIFA World Rankings stare at your face directly. 171! (as on February 2015).

“If the players are willing to work hard, results can always be achieved,” National Coach Stephen Constantine declares at the Official Pre-Match Media Interaction of India’s home-match against Nepal in the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers Preliminary Joint Qualifcation Round 1 match against Nepal in Guwahati.

“This may be a sentimental match for me as I had earlier coached Nepal. But on the pitch it would be pure business. Nepal are an organised side and would be ready to fight. It will be a big challenge,” he adds.

Constantine’s rival counterpart Nepal Head Coach Jack Stefanowski informs: “We have prepared for around two and a half weeks for this match. We hope to go back to Nepal with a positive result.”

That comes in sharp contrast with the six days with which Constantine has worked with the squad. In the bare minimum nevertheless, the mood in the Indian camp has been very positive. Besides the new coach, the team also has a new captain for the match.

“As I said before we need to have a new beginning and try to develop a new look and a new attitude and that’s why we have a new captain. Sunil is a part of it but for the next two matches, Subrata Pal will be the captain. We have huge respect for Sunil and that’s the reason we have him as the vice-captain,” Constantine further said.

“This is the toughest match of my career,” ‘Spiderman’ Subrata Pal maintained. “There’s no pressure on me. I know what my duty is and I want to enjoy my football. We have practiced hard for this and the support staff has been helping us at every step.”

Chhetri, the highest-ever Indian goalscorer in international football added: “The first leg of a two-game tie is always important. We have to give our best and hope that we have a lot of home support behind us. We are not thinking of the second-leg match in Kathmandu as the first game isn’t over as yet.”

Referring to a question, Constantine replied that he wants to play in a “system which would suit the players.”

The 4-4-2 is the mother of all formations. So for me the system is not as important as the players in the system,” he stated.

Meanwhile Nepal captain Sagar Thapa preferred to recollect Nepal’s 2-1 victory over India in the 2013 SAFF Championship. “We hope to play in the same spirit.”

Stefanowski who has been the Nepal coach since the last two years quipped the “pressure will be on India.”

“The Hero ISL has brought in high expectations and the pressure is on India. Though the Indian players are a bit athletic, there’s not much difference in the quality among the two sides,” he pronounced.

As the sun sets and the lights glow at the picturesque Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium in Sajusarai, Guwahati, the FIFA Rankings sarcastically come back to haunt again – 171! Indian football needs to fight back and the coach pronounces again – “It’s time for the Sleeping giant to wake up. Being the biggest democracy of the world doesn’t mean anything. Fight on the pitch if you want to win.”

The kick-off is at 19.00 IST and the match would be telecast live on DD North-East and Newstime Assam. DD Sports would be broadcasting the deferred telecast of the match at 22.00 IST tomorrow (March 12).

(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)