Stephen Constantine (TOI Photo)
CHENNAI: Stephen Constantine took a sabbatical after leading India’s charge into the AFC Asian Cup in 2019. Now, the former India coach is all set to come out of his self-imposed exile and is keen on coaching an ISL side. The ISL season gets underway in November this year.
“I was away from home for six years and I needed to go back and spend time with my family. I have had several calls from clubs in India since I left but I didn’t want to come straight back into coaching after stepping down. But I always missed the day-to-day routine of club football. Being at a club means I can do more to help the players and coaches in the academy and oversee their development. India has been good to me and there is always a possibility to come back,” Constantine, who was India’s coach from 2015-1019, told TOI from Limassol, Cyprus.
While the majority of ISL clubs have already appointed their coaches for the upcoming season starting from November this year, Chennaiyin FC and NorthEast United FC are still in the hunt to replace Owen Coyle and Robert Jarni (he was sacked mid-season) respectively.
Constantine feels familiarity with Indian conditions and players will hold him in good stead if he gets a job. “When I first took charge of the Indian team, we were 176 in Fifa rankings. But I had a plan of developing young Indian players. When I left, we had given 49 players their international debuts and qualified for the Asian Cup. We also won 3 International tournaments as well, winning the SAFF in 2016 and in 2018 with our U23 team came runners-up and had a 14-game unbeaten streak too. I won’t be coming to an ISL team because they are offering me a big salary. I want to be at a club who have specific plans and objectives and want to qualify for the AFC Champions League,” the British coach asserted.
Constantine has kept himself updated with the changes in Indian football, particularly in ISL where 3+1 foreigner rule will be introduced from next season and welcomed Mohun Bagan’s addition to the league. “I had begged the powers that be for this 3 +1 rule. How else the national team is going to be able to play consistently at the Asian Cups if we don’t have enough Indian players playing regularly at their clubs. The ISL is now the top league but we must not forget the contribution of the I-League. The biggest change which has not happened so far is that the Indian coaches have not reached a level which an ISL club would want them to. The coach education is weak and we need to be producing good quality Indian coaches,” said the UEFA Pro license holder coach.