Constantine slams SAFF Cup organisers for logistical chaos

Indian football head coach Stephen Constantine has slammed the SAFF Cup organisers for the logistical chaos during the event and said that the tournament was a ‘joke’ in terms of its organisation.

Stephen Constantine is the only foreign coach to win the SAFF Cup with India.   -  K MURALI KUMAR

Indian football head coach Stephen Constantine has slammed the SAFF Cup organisers for the logistical chaos during the event and said that the tournament was a ‘joke’ in terms of its organisation.

India won the tournament for the seventh time earlier this month in Thiruvananthapuram by defeating defending champions Afghanistan 2-1 in the summit clash.

For Constantine, the title triumph was a much needed respite after India lost five successive matches before winning one in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers under him after taking charge early last year.

“I don’t think going into the competition anyone thought we would get out of the group stage let alone win it! On top of the playing issues, we also had all sorts of problems from the organizational side of things,” Constantine said.

“The hotels did not have enough rooms, the team buses were often late, no training pitches available and well you get the picture. All I will say is, it was a joke and SAFF really need to sort this out once and for all. Seven teams in one venue with two unplayable training pitches,” he wrote on his personal blog.

53-year-old Constantine had also expressed a similar view before the start of the tournament as he was left to wait for a few hours to get to his hotel room.

Kerala Football Association Secretary Anil Kumar washed his hands off on the alleged organisational chaos. He said, “I agree that there were some issues regarding training pitches but I don’t agree that there were issues concerning transport of the players and officials. We were responsible for the main stadium only and all the matters, including hospitality and training pitches, were at the hands of SAFF and AIFF.”

“After the SAFF awarded the tournament to India and the AIFF were told to host it, we have told them that more funds will have to be put in for the improvement of the facilities to international standard but nothing happened,” he said.

“Of course, the coach has a freedom to speak on the issue and he must have been doing that from the standpoint of what are available in top footballing nations like in Europe. Facilities are lacking in India,” he added.

Constantine was happy to have started the year with a title triumph. “A great win to start off the year winning the SAFF Championship. I am really delighted for the players, staff and fans who were amazing. I am the only foreign coach to win the SAFF with India, we won all four of our games in the SAFF, the average age of the team was 23, and we won it without several key players,” said the Anglo-Cyprot coach.

“I am really proud of the players and of course happy for everyone at the AIFF. It is a great lift to everyone involved in Indian football and I must say a special ‘thank you’ to all the coaching and support staff they have been amazing throughout.”

Talking about picking a team which has many youngsters and inexperienced players, he said, “Looking back in early December, I had decided that we would select a mixed group of players that came from all corners of the country and from different levels of the game. Players were chosen from State leagues, Academies, 2nd division, as well some players, who were not selected for the ISL.”

“My philosophy in this is simple. We need eyes and ears everywhere and we should be constantly looking out for talent at all ages, in all competitions and all across the nation. Our motto is, if it moves scout it! So obviously, I am delighted that we had two army lads involved, an 18-year-old kid who was a direct result from my attending the AIFF U-19 league, and several others that joined the SAFF camp.”

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