With just more than a month left for the Indian National Team to play Iran, the ‘Giants of Asia’, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFC Asian Cup Preliminary Joint Qualifier in Bengaluru, AIFF Media caught up with National Coach Stephen Constantine on a number of issues pertaining to Indian football.
The entire interview would be carried in three parts, the second and the third part is to be published on August 10 and August 11 by AIFF Media.
INTERVIEW | PART 1
How much is the road ahead tough?
The road for us is as tough as I had expected it to be. Many may have thought that this was going to be a quick transition given that we beat Nepal and qualified. Many may have also severely underestimated Guam, and possibly overestimated the level that we are at the moment, which I personally feel cannot change within a short time.
Have there been changes to the squad?
I have made many changes to the philosophy of the team to the type of training that we do including introducing many bright new prospects into the squad.
But at the same time, they also need time to adjust to the pace and the level of international football. There is a huge difference between the standard of the domestic leagues to international football.
How is our team shaping up prior to the Iran match?
It’s Iran, the 41st ranked team in the world, the Giants of Asia. I feel that says it all.
The International Friendly against Nepal is the sole competitive match that our boys would have played before taking on the Asian superpowers. You need to remember that prior to the match against Nepal, most of the National Team players have not played a competitive game since June 2015 (against Guam) while the others have not played since May 31, 2015, i.e., the completion of the Hero I-League. So for some players, its more than two months while for the rest, it’s almost or even more than three months. The National Team is at a huge disadvantage.
We are playing Nepal on August 31st in an International Friendly? Is there any specific reason to play Nepal?
There were options playing against higher ranked teams but seeing that we are playing a home game, we wanted to play at home while those teams wanted to play at their home. So it didn’t materialize. Under such circumstance, it’s good we played some close to our ranking.
I know the sentiment of people wanting us to play more but none wants to play more than me.
(Interview & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)