At a time when accolades are flowing from every corner for Stephen Constantine’s boys for making an all-time Indian record of winning nine international matches on the trot (including the unofficial match against Bhutan), Constantine’s past pupils who were part of the Indian team for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Doha, also joined in the applause.
“The 2011 Asian Cup was a huge learning experience for us. This present team is on a roll and are very close to repeating the feat. Make it count,” ace defender Deepak Mondal echoed. “Constantine has brought in a fighting spirit into the team and that provide our boys with a cutting edge over their opponents,” he added.
The sturdy defender lauded the ten-match unbeaten run and he credited ‘the team effort’ for this achievement. “It rightly reflects how well-tuned they are at the moment. Right from the coach to the players, everyone is operating together as a team.”
Mondal’s central defence partner Mahesh Gawli also sounded exuberant while www.the-aiff.com caught up with him over the phone. “As former footballers, we look for an upward graph of our National Team. I’m really happy that they are doing well. I wish all the best for their forthcoming match against Macau,” he pronounced.
Abhishek Yadav, presently an AIFF Executive Committee member who started his international career under Constantine in 2002 felt a qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup will be the best thing for Indian football.
“In 2011, we qualified for the AFC Asian Cup after 27 years and these boys are on the verge of making it again within eight years. It shows we have made significant progress recently and we’re in the right direction to reach the next level,” Yadav, who scored the golden goal in the LG Cup final for India, stated.
“Under the aegis of AIFF, other programmes are also running pretty well. We’ve recently triumphed in the U-15 SAFF Championship and the U-17 boys have shown their character on foreign soil. A lot of hard work is being put in by AIFF and hence, the results are coming on the bigger stage,” Yadav referred to the other achievements.
Mondal and Gawli, meanwhile, were all praise for the current defensive unit for their compact defensive displays.
“I learnt they didn’t concede a goal for 300-odd minutes. That’s really stupendous in international football at any point of time. It shows that the defenders, the goalkeeper and others are perfectly synchronised and they’ve to maintain this until the job is finished,” Mondal certified.
Gawli pointed out ‘the healthy competition’ is the key to success. “There’s a healthy competition amongst the defenders and this is a good headache for the coach. Constantine has been rotating the squad and more youngsters are getting the opportunities to showcase their talent. It just reiterates his trust on his boys,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Yadav praised Stephen’s ‘work-ethic’ behind the success.
“Constantine is renowned for his work-ethic and it gets transformed into the players as well. The progress from 173 to 96 in FIFA Rankings, the ten-match unbeaten streak are undoubtedly the highlights of Indian football. I feel they have the calibre to take it forward.”