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Star Of India Stephen Constantine

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.

 

Englishman Stephen Constantine has coached in Cyprus, Nepal, Bhutan, Iran and Sudan and is single-handedly reviving the fortunes of football in India. He told Dan Brennan about making a global impact.
 
The much-travelled English manager Stephen Constantine enjoys cult status on the Indian sub-continent. In 2001, Constantine steered Nepal to the South Asian Federation Cup Final - an achievement that earned him the local equivalent of an OBE, the Probal Gorkha Dakshin Baahu.
 
In June 2002, he became coach of an India side that had not played a competitive game for two years. He swiftly guided them to Asia's LG Cup, which was the first time the trophy has gone to a team from outside South East Asia in 32 years.
 
Constantine had trials for Millwall and Chelsea youth teams, and played in the USA and Cyprus before his coaching career began. He helped Cypriot side Apep FC win promotion in his first season, and a year later won a league and cup double with AEL.
 
Constantine is one of Britain's best-qualified coaches and is currently finishing the UEFA Pro licence and is the only Englishman on the FIFA instructors' panel. This role takes him round the globe, running raining courses for emerging football nations. He recently returned from Bhutan and will head for Iran this June.
 
Constantine has discovered "a huge interest in football at grassroots level" in India, where derby matches in Bengal regularly attract crowds of 120,000.
 
The 40-year-old even designed India's kit and he has not been afraid to make other changes. "When I took over, there was a bit of a regional divide and also a culture of complacency," he said. "I made it clear that players would be picked on merit alone. I've been happy to drop some of the old guard and pick 17-year-olds if they're good enough."
 
As well as the senior side, Constantine also looks after the Under-21s, the Under-19s and the Under-17s. "It is hard work, but a real pleasure. We have some very talented young players," he said.
 
The Under-19 side showed their potential in the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland last summer, beating youth teams from Kilmarnock and Dynamo Kiev, before being denied a result against River Plate by a debatable penalty call.
 
In November 2003, the senior side caused more shocks when they beat Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Malaysia - all of whom are way above them in the FIFA rankings - on their way to the final of the Afro-Asia Cup, which they lost 1-0 to Uzbekistan.
 
"I'm extremely proud of what the boys achieved," glows the Englishman. "We're starting to make people take us seriously."
 
Stephen has also been tasked with helping reform domestic football. "As well as the national league, we've got a complex system of regional competitions, which means a congested fixture programme. I've proposed a streamlined schedule, and a new calendar for the main cup, which would improve things a lot."
 
Constantine's main task in 2004 is the World Cup qualifiers, where among others, his team face Japan. They will be rank outsiders, but Constantine is used to that. He is also used to causing a few upsets.

 

 

Dan Brennan, August 2004

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