'Need to cash in on current craze'

'Need to cash in on current craze'

Venkatesh to assist Constantine

'Need to cash in  on current craze'

 Stephen Constantine is no stranger to India and its challenges. His return as the national coach after nearly a decade does evince intrigue but the sharp-witted and terse Englishman insists his reasons were beyond pecuniary. Since his maiden stint from 2002-2005, he would admit, a few things have changed, and many didn’t. But he wouldn't delve into that.

He has come here with a clear-cut blueprint, claims to have a vision, and flaunts his dedication to the cause with a tri-colour tie which was “hand-made in Mumbai some 13 years back”. He knows he faces a daunting task of reviving Indian football which has sunk to its lowest 171th place. Naturally, his presence means changes.

And he did create a stir in his first interaction with the media here by announcing that he hadn't decided on his captain. Sunil Chhetri, has been leading the national side for a while. “I haven’t yet decided on my captain.

I will work with my boys and then decide on my captain,” said Constantine, under whom India achieved the ranking of 109. He has come here after having tremendous success coaching Rwanda, guiding the Africans to their highest-ever world ranking of 68.

The 52-year-old also brings with him goalkeeping coach Rogerio Ramos and fitness coach Daniel Darrel Deigan. Not to mention a new assistant coach in his former captain Shanmugam Venkatesh, who replaces Savio Medeira. “Venky knows what I am like, my moods, the manner I want to play. I think we need to give our young coaches a chance,” said Constantine.

Constantine was thrilled with the success of Indian Super League and believed that it was the right time to cash in on the publicity surrounding the football in the country. It was also one of the reasons which inspired him to return.

“The ISL proved the point I had said some 13 years ago that Indians love their football as much as they love their cricket,” he said.

“We have to work very much on the grassroots, and youth development because that is the only way we are going to have results. No team has ever won the World cup without their under-17 teams qualifying for the under-17 World Cup.

“The publicity surrounding the Indian football here, the awareness has had never been before. If we don’t take this opportunity now, I think we are finish. We can fix it and that is the motivation for me to return.” 

 "I want to touch everything from the state leagues to the national level tournaments to the universities. I am sure that there are hundreds of players who are capable of playing for India.”

He also proposed the idea of multi-national passports to enable players of Indian origin play for the national team.“I would like if it can be made possible because everybody else is doing it.”

Constantine’s focus rests on his crucial first assignment against Nepal on March 12 and 17  in the World Cup Qualifiers preliminary joint qualification round 1. “The Nepalese are fighters. We will work very hard to win the games,” he said.

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