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ISL seemed to outrank Indian national team, writes Stephen Constantine in book

Impending players’ medical in 2015 may have contributed to 1-2 loss to Guam, Indian football team head coach Stephen Constantine has written

football Updated: Jul 25, 2017 23:53 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Indian football,ISL,Indian Super League
Indian national football team head coach Stephen Constantine (L) said his preparations for some of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers were hampered by the Indian Super League (ISL), with players being released three days before a game.(AFP/Getty Images)

An extract from Indian national football team head coach Stephen Constantine’s book ‘From Den to Delhi’ published online on Monday suggests that he felt the senior national team was held hostage by the Indian Super League in 2015.

“You can’t have a league that doesn’t work in sync with the national team,” he has been quoted as saying by Scroll.in, which has published an excerpt.

The extract also talks about how Constantine thought players’ medical for an ISL auction some two days after a 1-2 away loss to Guam in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers affected performance in that match. The game was played on June 16 in 2015.

READ | Indian Super League winners eligible to play 2019 AFC Cup qualifiers

“The Guam game highlighted another problem: the looming shadow of the Indian Super League. The auction, where ten of the best Indian players went to the highest bidder, took place on 10 July, a month after the Guam game. But the players’ medicals were two days after we got back.

“Our players could earn huge sums in the ISL – Sunil (Chhetri) went for almost $200,000, while Eugeneson (Lyngdoh) got $150,000 – but not if they were injured. In my opinion, the medical had a huge effect on our performance. I’m not pointing fingers – Sunil and Eugeneson have been fantastic for me – but, overall, we were flat. It wasn’t the last time the ISL would affect my team,” Constantine has been quoted as saying.

In the portion published, Constantine also mentions the controversy surrounding releasing national team players before the start of the ISL in 2015. He claimed to have spoken to a number of managers including Marco Materazzi, Roberto Carlos, David Platt and Zico at the auction and said they agreed to release players on September 26 to help him prepare for the World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Turkmenistan.

READ | India thump Turkmenistan in AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers

“No one objected, so I planned a ten-day training camp. When September arrived, Kushal Das (the AIFF general secretary) said I would get the players on 5 October, three days before the Turkmenistan game. It was unacceptable. You can’t prepare for a World Cup qualifier with two training sessions, especially as the players were in pre-season. Like I said: if the guys were coming from the Premier League or La Liga, three days might be OK. But they weren’t. They needed to work.

“I told Kushal to pull rank, but he couldn’t. The league was too powerful. In Indian football, it seemed, the ISL outranked the national team. We got the players on 5 October, like the ISL wanted, with some players not arriving until the evening…”

READ | Indian players’ salaries surge in three years of Indian Super League

When Hindustan Times asked Das for a reaction on Tuesday evening, he said over the phone from New Delhi: “I haven’t read the extract and hence can’t react.”

Constantine is now in England and is expected back next month ahead of a preparatory camp for a four-team international tournament scheduled in Chennai.

“Anyone who reads the book in full will be in no doubt about my love and deep respect for India and all my players,” said Constantine in an e-mail to Hindustan Times on Tuesday.

First Published: Jul 25, 2017 23:53 IST