Ruing the fact that India do not assemble teams for various age group much before a tournament, chief coach of the football team Stephen Constantine has said that other countries are way ahead of India in planning. The coach is with the U-23 football team at the national camp at Ambedkar Stadium.
The India U-23 national team will play continental qualifiers in Qatar next month and has been clubbed alongside Syria, Turkmenistan and hosts Qatar.
“I will tell you the difference of Qatar, Syria and Turkmenistan from this Indian team. They (Qatar, Syria and Turkmenistan) must have been together for the last four-five years. We are together for just around 10 days. That is the difference,” Constantine told PTI.
“We do not have that continued pathway from Under-17 to Under-19 and from Under-19 to Under-23. Some of these boys have been with each other in Under-19 teams but most of them are not. So, it is difficult to make it a team in one week or 10 days. We will try to win matches, we do not go there to lose but it is difficult as these players are not long enough together,” he said.
“Getting together 28-30 boys from all over India and pulling them together in a team is a stress. We are trying to make it a team now,” he said.
Constantine said that the team needs to work a lot and it will be difficult for them. He is in his second stint as the national of the Indian team after being at the same position back in 2002-05.
“They need a lot of work. They had quite a lot of time together now. Luis has been with them for the last three-four months. Let us see and I hope they give a good account of themselves. But it will be difficult for them, very difficult.”
Talking about football leagues in India, Constantine said that the two parallel leagues is a good thing as it will give players to play more top level football.
“My understanding is that there will be two parallel leagues, the team that wins the I-League will go on to play in the AFC Champions League (play-offs), the ISL champions will play in the AFC Cup play-offs.
“Now, since the I-League champions are going to the AFC Champions League, it is the bigger league of the two, that is my understanding. There will be a Super Cup which will be a knock-out. Teams (from ISL and I-League) will be competing each other for the Super Cup or whatever Cup they call it,” he said.
“More Indian players will be playing if it is two leagues are running parallel. At the moment, in the ISL, I believe there are two players under the age of 22 playing and the same in the I-League. That means there are only four Indian players. In some leagues, after 10 minutes they take off the U-22 player and replaced by a senior player. How is that helping Indian players. How are these players (U-23) players going to play?
Two leagues will have more clubs and more clubs means playing time for the players which is a good thing according to Constantine. He also said that Mohun Bagan and East Bengal should be part of the leagues.
“If we have 10 teams here and 10 teams there, there is the more opportunity for more Indians to play. And for the national team, that is the best scenario because more Indian players are playing means more choices, more competition means the bar goes a little bit higher.
“Look at the Under-17 now, even these Under-19. They will be signed by the clubs but they are not going to play under the current scenario. If it is a parallel league, they will have to play them. This is what needs to happen, our U-19, U-21 players will get to play week-in week-out, so that they can start creating competition for places.
“So for me, if these happens for the next two years, and after that I don’t know, if it is one league, fine, but for now I think this is a good solution put forward by Mr Patel and by ISL.”
“Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are our two of the biggest clubs, they should be involved in Indian football without a shadow of doubt. How that comes in, one league or in two leagues I don’t know.
“What I know is that the parallel leagues will suit us, it can give us time for both parties to align themselves and do the right thing for Indian football. Everybody will benefit.”