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Constantine rues lack of football culture in India


New Delhi:  National coach Stephen Constantine feels that most of the Indian footballers do not have strong command on the basics of the game primarily due to a lack of football culture in the country.

Englishman Constantine, who took over as India coach early this year in his second stint, said not focussing on grassroot development over the years has led to the players learning the basics only late in their career.

“Ten years down the line after I left the India coach’s job in 2005, I can see the country has moved ahead in some areas. But at the same time, in some other areas, there has been little improvement,” Constantine, who also served as India coach between 2002 and 2005, said at a media interaction during a reception hosted for him by British High Commission here last night.

“Not enough focus on grassroot development and scouting of talent at a young age are unfortunately two such areas. Unfortunately, it is about the lack of football culture in this country. Eight countries have so far won the FIFA World Cup and you can see their football culture.

“In these countries, the youngsters start learning their basics at the age of four or five. In India, the players do not learn their basics at a young age and naturally they struggled in their basics when they grow up,” added the 52-year-old,who has also coached the national teams of Nepal, Sudan, Malawi and Rwanda.

“During our World Cup qualifying away match against Guam, I asked one of their players when did he start playing football under a qualified coach and he said at the age of four. And, when I asked the same question to C K Vineeth (national team player), he said he started with a coach at 13. There lies the difference,” Constantine said.

India had suffered a disappointing 1-2 loss to Guam, who were 33 places below India in FIFA rankings, in their 2018 World Cup second round qualifying away match last month.

Constantine conceded that Indian football has not done well in the last four-five years but felt that the worst may might be over.

“In the last four-five years, the national team has gone down in performance. Even the team was at 171st in FIFA rankings at one time (in December last year). But I assure you that I will leave the team in a better shape. In my coaching career, I have left whatever team I have been associated with in a better position,” he said.

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