| CONSTANTINE: 'Lack of practice a major hurdle'
Calcutta: It had been a fairy-tale beginning for Indian football coach Stephen Constantine with victories in the L.G. Cup in Vietnam and a creditable show in the Asian Games.
But since then, there has hardly been any performance of note. After the ignominy of losing in the semi-finals of the SAFF Cup in Dhaka in January, India lost to North Korea in the Asia Cup qualifiers followed by a loss against Turkmenistan in the pre-Olympic away game last week.
But the Indian coach is not ready to believe that there is anything to be disappointed about. “We felt bad losing to Turkmenistan, but the whole team that played in the Asian Games has been changed,” Constantine remarked. India had beaten the same team in Busan in September last year 2-0.
“This is a new side altogether. Plus, three players above the 23-year mark could play in the Asian Games, but not here. So things had to be tough,” Constantine told The Telegraph from Goa.
He also attributed lack of practice as one of the major reasons behind the disappointment against Turkmenistan. “These boys didn’t practice for more than five days together and the result is understandable.”
He also sounded a bit disappointed with the performance of Ashim Biswas in that game. “True, he was not at his best, but h’s still a kid and you can’t expect too much from him.”
He also felt that the refereeing in the game was far from satisfactory. “A penalty was awarded to them in the 93rd minute which defied logic.”
Constantine also sounded a little edgy about the home encounter on April 19 in Margao. “I haven’t got the boys together. They are still busy with their clubs in the National Football League,” he said.
However, the coach didn’t rate Turkmenistan as a terribly good side. “They basically play kick-and-run soccer, and if we can keep a couple of their players in check, then who knows'”
He also felt that they have no other option but to go all-out in the game. “We will play an attacking game and see how it goes on from there.”
The coach, however, lashed out at the prevailing system. “Co-ordination can never grow if the team does not practice for at least 15 days.”
He also felt that the clubs aren’t doing anything great for the players. “They have so much trouble in their clubs. I often don’t get the players in the best of shape (probably hinting at Bhaichung Bhutia’s injury that aggravated when fielded half-fit by the Mohun Bagan coach.”
The coach had asked for a medical team to be formed, which the AIFF has agreed to. Dr Vece Paes is in charge, while Constantine is also in search of a psychologist.