India’s head coach Stephen Constantine steered clear of the controversy that led to Nicolai Adam’s resignation as under-17 World Cup team’s coach, but told HT here on Monday that he is willing to help the squad get ready for the mega-event later this year.
“The under-17 team is not in my domain and hence I don’t want to react to what happened. However, I have told the AIFF (All India Football Federation) that I am available. Now, it is really up to them,” Constantine said, at the Bagdogra Airport that is about 16km from Siliguri.
Constantine was here for Sunday’s I-League match between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal which ended 0-0.
The national team coach said he is planning for the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers, which begin with an away match to Myanmar next month, and watching I-League games. “I’ll be in Mumbai next for Wednesday’s match between Mumbai FC and Mohun Bagan,” he said.
With India’s qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup running till March 2018 - they host Macau in the middle of the under-17 World Cup which runs from October 6-28 - Constantine can only be an interim replacement for Adam who resigned on February 7 after his players complained against him to the AIFF.
Along with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the federation has started the process of finding a new coach but it is unlikely to happen soon. The under-17 squad has resumed training in Goa last week.
Shaji Prabhakaran, former FIFA Regional Development Officer for South and Central Asia, said he thinks Constantine could be asked to step in as a temporary measure.
“I think his presence will motivate the boys; they will be training under the man who coaches Sunil Chhetri, someone most of these teenagers look up to.
“It will also send a good message across that the AIFF has stepped in with the best resource available. As it is, most national teams function on the principle that the senior team coach’s vision runs through the youth set-up. Also, during my time with AIFF, I remember Constantine taking charge of the youth team in his first stint as India coach,” said Prabhakaran who has also been the director of the national football team.