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Coach confined to the gallery

Busan: It’s no secret Stephen Constantine is a hard taskmaster and strict disciplinarian. So what did he tell his boys at half time after Bhaichung Bhutia and boys trooped to the dressing room having played some third-grade soccer'

“Would you like me to repeat it,” the Englishman asked, speaking to a small group of newsmen who had just watched India come from behind to thrash Turkmenistan 3-1. The coach was in great spirits, despite being subjected to some gross humiliation by the tournament committee.

A letter from the Match Commissioner said Constantine couldn’t sit with his team on the ground for Monday’s match for misbehaving with the referee after Friday’s game against Bangladesh.

The letter was issued to the Indian contingent just 45 minutes before kick-off of the Turkmenistan match.

“They got more than a kick on their backside,” the coach ‘revealed’ about his half-time pep talk to the boys. “I didn’t tell them to change anything, just reminded them they needed to play football like it’s played.”

Asked about the new experience of watching his team play from the galleries, Constantine said it didn’t matter in the end because the mission had been accomplished. “In any case, there was the TD (Sukhwinder Singh) and assistant coach (Aloke Mukherjee) to help me communicate with the players.”

He made it a point to blast the “ridiculous” decision to ban him from the pitch. “I can’t believe they put me up there… I didn’t abuse the referee after the last match, I was just excited (for the stoppage-time red card flashed at Dipak Mondal).”

Coach and manager Santo Mitra said the Indians will be putting in a formal protest to the tournament committee.

Bhutia was elated after the final whistle. “All goals are important for me, I don’t want to rank them. But yes, today’s goals were very crucial for our team, so I am delighted,” he said with more than a touch of modesty.

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