THE NATIONAL TEAM COACH Stephen Constantine held no punches as he criticized the state of football development in this country. He was speaking to the press after a meeting with AIFF Vice President Subrata Dutta and IFA General Secretary Utpal Gangopadhyay.
Elaborating on what has changed since his first stint as India coach ended in 2005, the veteran British gaffer said that there has been no significant development in football infrastructure in this country in the last 10 years.
Pointing to how major clubs in Kolkata are yet to fully develop their training facilities, Stephen said:
“None of the clubs utilise methods of modern sports science, no one but Bengaluru uses GPS on players… youth development is largely overlooked in India.”
Expressing concern about outdated coaching methods still prevalent in India, Constantine spoke of the all-India coaches' meet he organized in Goa to pick his coaching staff.
“There were many coaches there holding A-License. It didn't seem like they could go along with my way of doing things. So I had to think of alternatives. There are many persons in India who do not have an A-License but can be excellent coaches. I'm happy to work with them instead.”
This comment comes hot in the heels of a controversy that erupted when it turned out that Constantine's assistant coach Shanmugam Venkatesh did not possess an A-License. Venkatesh has since been replaced by British gaffer Lee Johnson and given appointment as the team manager instead.
Event management at the top level, too, drew rebuke from Constantine. He spoke of how the last edition of the Federation Cup had clubs play 5 matches within the span of 9 days.
“It's utterly unscientific. “It's better to scrap a tournament like that and strengthen the I-League instead. I want the first division league to have 16 clubs, divided into two conferences like Major League Soccer in the US. As for the second division, it should be played in 5 regional groups first, then a final round. Two teams from each region can qualify for the next round which may have a league format. Then the final rounds should be a knockout. At least two clubs must be given promotion to the top tier league.”
Stephen did not, however, comment on whether the haphazard fixture and the eventual cancellation of the Federation Cup is ultimately due to Indian Super League eating into the Indian football calendar. The ISL, he feels, can be beneficial if Indian players can improve themselves in the vicinity of world class footballers.
Speaking of the U-17 World Cup 2017, to be held in India, he said it would be a tough ask to bring up the fitness levels of Indian players up to the international standard seen in countries like Brazil, Spain and Germany. Planning and implementation, he says, have a long way to grow before India can truly become competitive in world football.
Change will come slow, said Constantine, but it's safe to bet that the primary aim of his stint as the national coach is to speed that process up as much as possible.