Sunday, December 3, 2023

We are no more dependant on Sunil Chhetri, says coach Constantine

Kolkata, April 4 (IANS) The Indian football team is not dependant on long-time talisman Sunil Chhetri any more, coach Stephen Constantine said here on Tuesday.

“I don’t think we are dependant on Sunil Chhetri,” Constantine told reporters here at the two-day scouting workshop for coaches conducted by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

“He is always at the right place at the right time. There is fierce competition for all places. Sunil Chhetri is a player who has been consistent, he is professional, he looks after himself and he is a great player and great leader.”

“We are happy with him but there are plenty of other players who are coming up and we would continue to search for players that will help us,” said the Briton, who took charge of the national team in early 2015.

Under Constantine, 34-odd footballers have made their debut for India. Chhetri though has continued to be the go-to man, underlining his importance once again with a winner against Myanmar in a Group A tie of the AFC Asian Cup qualifier on March 28.

On a different note, Constantine, who is in his second stint as India coach — the first was from 2002-2005 when he helped India win the LG Cup — said Chhetri and Bhaichung Bhutia cannot be compared as both are vastly different footballers.

“They both are great players in their own right,” said Constantine who has coached both.

“Bhaichung, maybe, was a little bit more aggressive. Maybe that was because he spent three years in England. But Sunil Chhetri is different, he can play a bit wider. He can come off the flanks. He can give us different looks if you like. I think there is quite a big difference,” Constantine opined.

Bhutia played at Bury FC in England from 1999 to 2004. Chhetri, meanwhile, played on the flanks for India in the last two games.

Constantine said he cannot compare his two stints as times are different.

“I don’t think you can compare this to last time. It’s very different times, different players, different situations. So, I would not like to disrespect the players of 10-12 years ago to the players now. Back in 2002, we won the LG Cup which was the first time India won anything outside of the continent.”

“We got a silver medal in the Afro Asian Games, we did a lot of good things last time. I am just happy we are doing good things this time as well.”

“You can’t compare to Rwanda. For us to go from World No. 135 to 68, was never been done before. And I am immensely proud of that as I am of us being No. 101 and hopefully beyond that in the weeks and months to come. So ok relatively happy,” the former Rwanda coach said.

Constantine said he is ready to scout any player worth his salt, irrespective of his background and from where he belongs.

“(I am ready to scout) anything that moves. If it moves, we will scout it. If he is 10, if he is 15, if he is is 20, it doesn’t matter. I am covering with Abhishek (Yadav), we take care of the I-League and Indian Super League. We have people at the Santosh Trophy, we had people at the university leagues, and why I need to develop a pool of scouts is so that we have a continuous competition,” he said.

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