Constantine: ‘Happy with the current crop of players’

The players, plying their trade with various I-League clubs, and Constantine are linked via technology. “We have an App by which we know what each player is doing at every club.

Under Stephen Constantine, a number of players have made their international debuts.   -  K. Murali Kumar

 

Stephen Constantine is satisfied with the physical condition of national team probables, who have assembled in batches at the Mumbai Football Arena ahead of the team’s AFC Asian Cup 2018 Qualifiers.

“We haven’t had access to the players, so when they go back to the clubs (between national camps), it is a different level and intensity is different. The boys know what is expected,” Constantine said.

The players, plying their trade with various I-League clubs, and Constantine are linked via technology. “We have an App by which we know what each player is doing at every club.

“They feed in the information, which comes to me and others (national senior team coaches and support staff). So when the player returns to the camp, we know what needs to be done and he can recover quicker,” he explained.

Read: India announces 24-member team for AFC Asian Cup qualifier

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh, who plays for Norwegian side Stabaek IF, joined two days back while players of Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan joined after their AFC Cup tie on March 14.

The rest of the squad have been training under Constantine’s supervision for a week in Mumbai, in temperatures similar to what the team will face in Yangon, which is hosting the AFC Asian Cup Qualifier.

Speaking about new inductees Milan Singh and Jerry Lalrinzuala, the chief coach said: “They are young, quick and tough boys. They are here (national camp) now, does not mean they will be here tomorrow. It is a very good learning experience for them. We have had 30 players over two years, some are here and others are not. The door (into Indian team) never closes (on players), unless they close it.”

Under Constantine, a number of players have made their international debuts. “We need a continuation. The U-17 boys playing the World Cup will come into the U-19, then U-21. Players are being scouted at the Santosh Trophy (Senior Nationals which is being held in Goa).”

The chief coach was in Goa for the India U-17 camp for the World Cup, along with his specialist coaches, filling a gap in training between Nicolai Adam’s recent exit as India U-17 coach and Luis Matos appointment as his replacement.

Replying to a query whether uniformity in training systems would help the age group players moving up the ranks into the senior team, he said: “My personal opinion is that the national coach should lead all the national teams, in (football) philosophy, selection of coaches, methodology. They (talented age group boys) are going to come to him.

“There is a side to the argument which asks what happens when a national coach gets sacked. Till 17 years, the boys are learning different systems anyway. The philosophy may change (when a new coach comes in), but continuity is essential.”

Constantine points to Myanmar (FIFA ranking 172 and drawn in India’s (ranked 132) group at the Yangon tournament) “The best example of continuity is Myanmar. They qualified for the U-20 World Cup in 2015 on merit, average age of the senior national team is about 24 and they have got a coach (former U-19 coach Gerd Ziese put in charge of Myanmar senior side) for the last eight years”.

Under the system here, the Indian senior chief coach and Matos, the newly-appointed India U-17 World Cup coach, works independently.

India seniors camp is at full strength due to the federation’s decision to halt the I-League 2017 after the 14th round. Aizawl FC is leading with 30 points, with nine wins and three draws.

Talking about the possibility of talented Aizawl players getting a call-up in future, Constantine replied: “I need to see players (before selecting). As a team, they are playing very well. I have a group of players that I am comfortable with. For somebody to come in, they need to be better than what I have. I wish them (Aizawl) well and I’m sure in future, there will be players to catch the eye.”