Will AIFF replace Constantine?

The India coach has a contract that runs until February 2017. A section of the AIFF, however, is keen on replacing the Englishman at the earliest and giving his successor enough time to blend in ahead of India’s qualifying round play-off matches for the 2019 Asia Cup in February.

Stephen Constantine... on his way out?   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

The All India Football Federation’s Technical Task Force, comprising Baichung Bhutia, Henry Menezes, Kishore Taid, Scott O'Donnell and Anil Kumar, met in Mumbai to discuss matters pertaining to Indian football.

The Federation’s grassroots programme and the tenure of the national coach, Stephen Constantine, were the major topic discussed.

The Technical Task Force also discussed the unavailability of proper employment opportunities for most of the certified Indian coaches and requested the AIFF general secretary to look into the matter and find out if the Federation can gainfully employ them.

Constantine has a contract that runs until February 2017. A section of the AIFF, however, is keen on replacing the Englishman at the earliest and giving his successor enough time to blend in ahead of India’s qualifying round play-off matches for the 2019 Asia Cup in February.

“They discussed the work of the national coach. The national team has a few months break and it might be the ideal time to bring in a replacement in case they feel there is a need for change,” a senior AIFF official told Sportstar.

"It first needs to be ascertained what Constantine’s plans are with the National team. Then we can decide on his successor. The meeting entrusted the AIFF general secretary, Kushal Das, to speak to Constantine and decide the future course of action. No replacement candidates were discussed as such,” Menezes, the CEO of Western Indian Football Association's (WIFA), said after the meeting.

Constantine, in his second stint as India coach, failed to inspire his team in the World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers with the side finishing last in Group D, which also had Asian heavyweights Iran and Oman, and lowly ranked Guam. Constantine, however, guided India to SAF Championship glory — the team beat Afghanistan 2-1 the final — in January 2016.

The Federation, though, was far from impressed with Constantine’s performance. Praful Patel censured him for a comment against the scheduling of the Indian Super League, which coincided with crucial World Cup qualifiers, late last year. The 53-year-old coach had also expressed his displeasure at the Indian government’s policy to disallow the participation of players of Indian origin, living and playing abroad, in the national team.

Article 16 of the FIFA Statutes states:

A Player who is eligible to represent more than one Association on account of his nationality, may play in an international match for one of these Associations only if, in addition to having the relevant nationality, he fulfils at least one of the following conditions:

(a) He was born on the territory of the relevant Association; (b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant Association; (c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant Association; (d) He has lived continuously on the territory of the relevant Association for at least two years.

The Indian Sports Ministry, however, issued a notification on December 26, 2008, barring non-Indian citizens from representing the country in any sport.

Former Bengaluru FC manager Ashley Westwood, who was the favourite to take over the national side before Constantine’s surprise appointment in December 2014, is, once again, touted to take over the national team. When contacted, Westwood said he was not aware of any such move to appoint him as the national team manager, and that he was not willing to comment on the subject.