NEW DELHI: The ‘Black Buck’ of Indian Football, IM Vijayan, currently a Government observer of the Indian National Team believes that Stephen Constantine is walking on the same path as Germany’s World Cup winning coach Joachim Low.
In an interview, Vijayan speaks at length about Constantine’s speciality as a coach, the 35 debutants in over 30 months, Team India’s record winning streak and much more. “If you are complacent, you will dig your own grave,” is his direct message to Team India prior to the match against Macau. EXCERPTS:
35 players have made Senior National Team debut under Stephen Constantine. How do you see that?
It shows his courage and belief on his boys. Handing debut to 35 players over the course of the 30 months isn’t something which you would see every day in the International Football.
There were 10 U-23 boys in the preparatory Camp in Mumbai out of which three — Manvir Singh, Nikhil Poojary and Anirudh Thapa went on to make their Senior Team debut. Not to forget that Jerry Lalrinzuala, another U-23 player had already made his debut much prior. It speaks about Stephen’s guts and it would obviously push his players to deliver on the bigger stage.
How will it help in the long run?
Look at the last edition of the Confederations Cup and you will get your answer. Germany coach Joachim Löw preferred a team with an average age of 24 years and went on to win the Tournament. Constantine is walking on the same path.
How would the 10-match unbeaten spree (including 9 wins) help the boys gain confidence before the AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Macau?
Mark my words, the 9 consecutive victories (including the win in the unofficial match against Bhutan) is bound to get make the rival team a bit concerned. But the danger stays that in such a situation, the team tends to get a bit carried away and be complacent. In that case, you will dig your own grave.
You have played under Stephen Constantine. How is he special?
I need not describe it as the results are visible in front of everyone. From my experience of playing under him, I can say that his ideology is simple – ‘Go, fight and win.’ He is someone who can make you win – it’s a quality that not all Coaches possess. He studies his players minutely to know their limitations and skill set, and eventually churns the best out of a player. You need to credit him for this.