Stephen Constantine Steps Down as Indian Football Team Coach after Asian Cup Exit

Stephen Constantine Steps Down as Indian Football Team Coach after Asian Cup Exit

Stephen Constantine has decided to step down from his position of Indian national football team’s head coach following their defeat to Bahrain and consequent exit from the AFC Asian Cup. 


The Blue Tigers succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against Bahrain at the Sharjah Stadium on Monday night, with Jamal Rashed’s 91st-minute penalty turning out to be the decider.

India held their breath as the match went into injury time, counting down every single second as they stood at the verge of securing knockout football for the first time in their history. However, one moment of madness from Indian skipper, Pronay Halder, turned their world upside down.

A mistimed challenge followed by the most-dreaded gesture from the match official took the game out of India’s reach, as they stood witness to a memorable Bahrain win, and yet another Indian heartbreak.

Stephen Constantine, who helped India to their second best FIFA rankings of 96, couldn’t help taking the blame and announced his resignation in the post-match press conference.

“I’m stepping down after this game. I’ve been here for four years, my objective from day one was to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup. I’ve done that and I’m exceptionally proud of the players for everything they have given,” Constantine said, as quoted by Rediff.

“I think my cycle has finished. I did what I was asked to and a little bit more and after four years, I think it’s time to leave. The boys are sick as you can imagine. I am just disappointed for them as they gave everything in the last few games.”

“I’m sad to be leaving, the players and staff have been fantastic throughout the tournament. Even those who failed to make the final squad.”

“It’s my wife’s birthday today and I haven’t been back to my house in six years. I’ve only seen my three daughters every three or four months and the time has come for me to move on.”

Constantine had earlier coached the side between 2002 and 2005, before being recalled in 2015, after the dismissal of Dutch international, Wim Koevermans.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) confirmed his resignation on Twitter, saying: “Mr. @StephenConstan has announced his resignation as the Head Coach of the Indian National Team. We haven’t received any official communication from him yet but we accept his decision & thank him for his contribution to #Indianfootball: Mr. Kushal Das, General Secretary, AIFF.”

The match certainly didn’t pan out the way he had hoped, but Constantine refused to admit that his side only played for a draw.

“We didn’t intentionally set up for a draw. Bahrain started with real energy, looking to get the early goal and as the game wore on, this is maybe a little inexperience on our side.”

“We started defending deeper and deeper and in the end, we got punished. But I thought we were unlucky. We defended well for 90-something minutes and as the 70th and 75th minute came on the boys thought, okay we can hold on.”

“Bahrain were playing with six forwards and four in midfield, it was tough, but to get beaten by a penalty is harsh in anybody’s eyes,” he concluded.

AFC Asian Cup: India 0-1 Bahrain – Match Report and Talking Points as the Blue Tigers Crash out

AFC Asian Cup: India 0-1 Bahrain - Match Report and Talking Points as the Blue Tigers Crash out

Jamal Rashed’s injury-time penalty handed Bahrain a dramatic 1-0 win over India on Monday night, consequently knocking the Blue Tigers out of the AFC Asian Cup. 


The loss in Sharjah, along with Thailand’s 1-1 draw with UAE, meant India finished at the bottom of the barrel, while the Emiratis and Bahrain qualified as group winners and runners up, respectively.

Having endured a gut-wrenching 2-0 defeat to UAE in their previous match, India were in desperate need for improvement. Their performance against the hosts wasn’t disappointing, per se, but they still needed to be more decisive in front of the opposition goal.

India, to their disappointment, started the match on the back foot, as they failed to contain Bahrain’s explosiveness down the flanks. A plethora of early crosses unsettled the Blues, but their resilience ultimately paid dividends as they slowed down their opponents through non-threatening, yet smart, passes.

After just three minutes of play, India suffered their first blow of the match, losing Anas Edathodika to an excruciating knee injury. Soon after, Bahrain registered their first shot on target through Rashed’s outside-the-box effort. India stopper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, was up to the task and parried the ball away from danger.

Minutes later, India’s Pritam Kotal tried to trouble the Bahrainis by swinging in a cross, but Ashique Kuruniyan’s tame header – India’s only shot on target in the match – did very little to work the keeper.

Sandesh Jhingan was at his sublime best in the first half and did superbly to stop Mohamed Al Romaihi from getting his shot away.

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Courtesy: Sportskeeda

In the second half, Jeje Lalpekhlua was introduced in an ineffective Ashique’s place, but sadly, that couldn’t stop India from succumbing to Bahrain’s relentlessness. Bahrain kept on piling men forward and forced Jhingan and Sandhu into action. At the halfway point in the second half, The Reds were denied by a whisker, as substitute Marhoon’s effort rattled the post.

Also Read: Chhetri overtakes Messi

A blasphemous decision from the referee awarded Bahrain an indirect free-kick for a perceived back pass from Indian defender, Subhasish. The Blues, despite being hard done by the decision, defended the set-piece well and denied Bahrain from scoring.

Tragedy, inevitably, struck in the added injury time, as a moment of madness from India captain Pronay Halder saw the Blue Tigers get penalized. Jamal Rashed stepped up to the plate and dispatched a convincing penalty, crushing India’s AFC Asian Cup aspiration for good.

Talking Points

A Convincing Bahrain Display

Having picked up only a single point from their first two matches, Bahrain knew they had to beat India to earn themselves a chance to feature in the knockouts. They came out determined and fearless and didn’t waste a single minute standing on ceremony. Bahrain started on the front foot, maintained the tempo right until the final whistle, and deservedly walked away with all three points.

Chhetri No Show, Again

Yes, India have probably become overly dependent on their record goalscorer, Sunil Chhetri, but the weight of expectations shouldn’t bring down a player of Chhetri’s calibre. After missing a good number of opportunities against UAE, Chhetri needed to be at his sharpest against Bahrain; but the Bengaluru FC man, once again, failed to deliver on his promises, and couldn’t register even a single shot on target.

Constantine’s Tactics

After two tactically immaculate games, India coach, Stephen Constantine, failed to bring his ‘A game’ in one of the most important matches in the history of Indian football. His team did not seem interested in playing football and only focused on hoofing the ball away from danger. The Blue Tigers gifted the Bahraini defenders a very comfortable night, and, honestly, deserved to come away empty-handed.

AFC Asian Cup: UAE 2-0 India – Match Report and Talking Points

AFC Asian Cup: UAE 2-0 India - Match Report and Talking Points

A wasteful India succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against hosts, the United Arab Emirates, in their second league match of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Thursday night. 


Two well-taken goals from Khalfan Mubarak and Ali Ahmed Mabkhout, on either side of half-time, sealed the win for the hosts against India, who were fortunate to come out with a clean sheet.

India, fueled by the confidence from the emphatic 4-1 win over Thailand, started the game on the front foot. Their ambition was rewarded early on when they came agonizingly close to converting from a well-worked corner. Sandip Jhingan outleapt all UAE defenders to meet the ball but failed to keep his effort on target.

Also Read: Thailand 1-4 India

The Men in Blue kept piling bodies forward and carved out another juicy opportunity moments after. This time, Sunil Chhetri‘s inch-perfect pass sent Ashique Kuruniyan through on goal. The young forward, however, failed to keep his composure and hit the ball straight at UAE shot-stopper, Khalid Essa, who safely parried the ball away for a corner.

Having missed a golden opportunity minutes earlier, Ashique Kuruniyan, tried to make amends by orchestrating a brilliant passage of play. His neat pass found Udanta Singh on the right, who, after some neat footwork, found Anirudh Thapa just at the edge of the area. Thapa’s immaculate curling-cross located his captain, Sunil Chhetri, inside the box. The 34-year-old, uncharacteristically, could only direct his header straight at the Emirati keeper, squandering India’s second golden opportunity on the night.

Following a spell of relentless pressure, India took their foot off the pedal, which allowed the hosts to land a sucker punch. A defensive howler from Anas Edathodika wrong-footed the entire Indian defense, leaving Gurpreet Singh Sandhu helpless as he saw Mubarak’s effort flow past him.

Jeje Lalpekhlua was introduced in the second half to give India an edge going forward. The trick nearly paid off moments later when a deflected free-kick fell to Jeje just outside the area, and his volley missed the goal by only a whisker. A couple of minutes later, a quick one-two between Chhetri and Udanta split the UAE defense, but the young winger’s effort was ultimately saved by the crossbar.

Finally, in the 88th minute, UAE killed the game thanks to Mabkhout’s commendable composure, who left Pritam Kotal for dead before slotting it past Sandhu.

Talking Points

Night to Forget for Chhetri

Following his brace against Thailand, many had expected Sunil Chhetri to produce yet another memorable performance. Against the strongest team in their group, the Indian skipper struggled to make his mark and was quite mediocre in front of goal. On any other day, Chhetri would’ve taken the match ball home, but unfortunately, last night was just wasn’t meant to be his.

Lapse of Concentration

Since kick-off, India did their best to keep the pressure on their lofty rivals. Thanks to India’s pacy and skillful forwards, UAE were getting pushed back time and again, but one dip in concentration still ended up costing them the tie. Anas Edathodika will have to take the blame for UAE’s opener, but the rest of the Indian defense, too, didn’t do anything to help the Kerala Blaster man out.

Qualification Still Possible

Following the win, and having picked up 4 points from the opening two games, UAE moved to the top of the Group A table, pushing India down to the second position. Earlier in the day, Thailand picked up a narrow 1-0 win over Bahrain to climb up to third. India, who have three points and a +1 goal difference, need at least a draw against Bahrain and hope that UAE manage to beat Thailand.

AFC Asian Cup: Thailand 1-4 India – Match Report, Standout Performer, Expectations

Sunil Chhetri starred with a brace as India got their 2019 AFC Asian Cup campaign off to a flyer, beating Thailand 4-1 in their tournament opener at the Al Nahyan Stadium on Sunday evening. 


The Men in Blue were brilliant in every sense of the term and thoroughly deserved to clinch their first victory in the AFC Asian Cup since 1964. The magnificent Indian skipper, Sunil Chhetri, put India ahead thorough an expertly-executed penalty kick in the 27th-minute, sending the supporters into a frenzy. Thailand, however, took only six minutes to respond and restored parity through Teerasil Dangda’s well-taken free-kick. India came out all guns blazing in the second half and recorded an emphatic scoreline through one goal each from Chhetri, Anirudh Thapa, and Jeje Lalpekhlua.

 

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Courtesy: Indian Express

On paper, Thailand seemed like the better team by a distance. Thanks to the South East Asians’ knack for breaking away at pace, India were tipped for a difficult night. The initial omens fell in line with the predictions, as it was the War Elephants who created the first real chance of the night. India were relieved to see Thitipan Puangchan’s effort miss the target, but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was tested soon after from a well-worked set-piece routine.

Thailand, as expected, had a stronger foothold in the game, enjoying just over 70% possession in the first half. However, after a spell of Thai dominance, it was India’s turn to hit back. Ashique Kuruniyan’s ambitious effort hit Theerathon’s arm, and the match official, who was in a great position at the time, didn’t hesitate to penalize the War Elephants. India’s ever-reliable skipper, Sunil Chhetri, stepped up and dispatched a convincing spot kick to put his side ahead. Thailand reacted in the best possible way and restored parity through Teerasil’s thumping header just six minutes after. The two teams went into the tunnel with nothing between them.

The second half saw India play their best half in the history of the tournament. They looked flamboyant, decisive, and weren’t afraid to take on their lofty rivals. Just a minute into the second half, Chhetri’s pass found Udanta Singh, who went on an inspiring run before teeing up his skipper for India’s second goal of the night.

The Blue Tigers had smelt blood by then and were hunting for the all-important third goal. After 20 minutes of relentless pressing and unmatched doggedness, India hit their third through an efficient counter-attack. Chhetri’s inch-perfect through ball set Udanta up for a comfortable finish, and while the youngster missed his mark, Anirudh Thapa didn’t let the opportunity go to waste.

Finally, to top the historic night off, Jeje Lalpekhlua came off the bench to score India’s fourth in the 80th minute, ending his 10-month goal drought.

 

Standout Performer – Sunil Chhetri

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Courtesy: Indian Express

The 34-year-old Indian maverick once again proved why he is hailed as one of the finest Indian players in the history of the sport. With his brace (66th and 67th goal), Chhetri went past Argentina’s Lionel Messi (65 goals) in the list of international goals scored by an active footballer, with only Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 85 from 154 matches, remaining to beat. His goals were only the icing on the cake, as his commitment, doggedness, and determination were equally influential.

 

Looking Ahead

Participating in their fourth Asian Cup, the 4-1 win over Thailand, last night, was only India’s third triumph in 11 fixtures. The encouraging result should give the Men in Blue, who now sit at the top of their group, plenty of confidence to hope for the unexpected and go deep into the tournament. Hosts UAE are the strongest team in their group and would be a tough nut to crack. Bahrain, on the other hand, seem a like a more favorable opponent, and should not pose much of a threat to an in-form India.

India’s next fixture pits them against UAE – who were held to a draw by Bahrain in their tournament opener – on Thursday night.

 

Sunil Chhetri overtakes Lionel Messi: AFC Asian Cup brace against Thailand creates history!

Sunil Chhetri overtakes Lionel Messi: AFC Asian Cup brace against Thailand creates history!

Indian Football mainstay, Sunil Chhetri created history when he scored two goals in the country’s 4-1 win in their AFC Cup group stage opener against Thailand.


Sunil Chhetri has surpassed Lionel Messi with the veteran Indian scoring his 66th and 67th Goal against Thailand, while Messi has 65 International Goals to his name. 

 

There are no words to describe Sunil Chhetri and what he has achieved in Indian Football. He is one man that has been a catalyst in building Football in India from an underfunded and underappreciated sport to a potential Football Giant with bags of potential. Chhetri has gone on to break record upon record for the Indian Football team and at times has virtually carried the country on his shoulders. He has scored 67 International Goals which is the second-highest in the World for any active player, Chhetri is only behind Cristiano Ronaldo who has scored a mind-boggling 85 Goals. But what makes the record even more special is the fact that Chhetri scored these 2 goals in a winning cause.

Going into the AFC Asian Cup India knew that in a Group with Bahrain, Thailand, and UAE they were facing three teams that are tactically and physically better than India. But the fact that India pulled off a 4-1 win with such a dominant display is way bigger than the record. India last registered a win in 1964 in the AFC Asian Cup and the 4-1 margin is India’s best victory ever in the tournament. Chhetri is the type of player that always puts the team ahead of himself and he’s the kind of personality that would trade in all these goals if that would mean his Country would win more honors.

It’s pretty evident from his tweet here that Chhetri didn’t care about his record as much and he’s also weary enough to not get carried away after this victory. Yes, India have beaten Thailand by a heavy 4-1 margin and have made a perfect start to the tournament. But the onus would be on Sunil Chhetri to ensure that the team keeps their feet on the ground and does not get too carried away by their early success. The record is great but what’s satisfying to see is that there is a whole generation of young Footballers on the team who are fighting with all their might and are getting the much-required experience to take their game to the next level. 

When you see a 34-Year-old Sunil Chhetri giving his all for the country and running in with the enthusiasm of a teenager you are bound to get inspired. Sunil Chhetri is a revelation and the man deserves a lot more recognition and credit than he’s given because he made us dream and that is priceless.  

 

Indian Football – East Bengal handed transfer ban

Indian Football - East Bengal handed transfer ban

On Saturday, the All India Football Federation(AIFF) announced that they will be handing a transfer ban for Kolkata giants East Bengal for illegally approaching and signing Minerva Punjab star defender Sukhdev Singh. At the beginning of the transfer window, both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal claimed to have signed the defender. This led to the director of Minerva Punjab to lodge a complaint to All India Football Federation stating that East Bengal had illegally tapped up the Minerva Punjab player. The All India Football Federation then referred this case to its players status Committee which met earlier this month and discussed the case. The committee decided that they will be held responsible for tapping up.

Sukhdev’s contract at Minerva Punjab lasted for the entirety of the 2018-19 season and had more than six months left on his contract. According to the FIFA rules, if a club wants to make an approach for a player of another club who has more than six months on his contract, they will have to contact the club that the player is currently playing for before making an approach directly to the player, like in this case where East Bengal directly approached the player without talking to Minerva Punjab before they did.

Numerous sources say that East Bengal did not take the right procedures but Mohun Bagan did in an attempt to sign the defender. Mohun Bagan first approached Minerva Punjab and held talks to sign him but the deal supposedly failed to take shape before East Bengal announced his signature. East Bengal claim that they were ignorant of the player’s current contract and that they were misled by the player’s agent. Given the fact that all clubs have access to a centralized system where they are able to check the contract status of any player, the board decided that East Bengal’s claim didn’t hold water and were hence handed the transfer ban.

Chettri signs a contract extension with Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC - Sunil Chettri

In a short span of five years, Bengaluru FC have truly reached a level where not many other Indian clubs have been able to reach over the course of decades. Sunil Chettri has signed a contract extension which keeps him at the club until 2021. After winning the league in their first season, Bengaluru FC went on to win five trophies in five years. Throughout their successful journey, where superstars came and went, one man stayed as the pillar of strength. As the coaches changed, players left and the home ground shifted one thing remained constant – The legacy of Sunil Chettri

Captain Leader Legend as he is so often known has seen the ups and downs of the club. He has enjoyed the good times and fought hard during the bad. He is the kind of captain that are made in dreams. For Bengaluru fans, he means more than what Gerrard meant to Liverpool, what Messi means to Barcelona and what Paul Scholes meant to Manchester United. He is the heart and soul of the club and signing a contract extension means he will probably retire at the club that has given him so many memories, and made him the best in the country. 

Out of the many fans that he has, it’s safe to say that the Bengaluru fans are the best one’s yet. It was really disheartening to see him make that emotional message that went viral on social media where he requested people to support the national team. Yes, there was a massive turnout but it’s highly unlikely that the same fans won’t turn up for the future games. Indian football is in a bad state. As far as club football is concerned, Bengaluru FC are undoubtedly the pioneers of Indian football and with Chettri leading them, nothing seems impossible in a club where the word impossible has no meaning.

Indian Football – Forever In The Shadows

Indian Football

It was confirmed a few days back that the Indian Olympic Association has decided to leave both the Men’s and the Woman’s football team out of the upcoming Asian games and have continuously defended their stance as the fans expressed their disappointment. Let’s take a look at why the future of this sport in our country is in absolute shambles.

Ever heard of sambo, pencak silat, kurash and sepak takraw?

These are among the sports, teams of which have been selected by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), to represent the country at the Asian Games that kick off on August 18 in Indonesia. And then there is football, a sport that has in recent times shown great promise in our country which the IOA has casually decided to leave out of the Asian Games.

Why? Simply because they say “We don’t believe that they stand a chance to win medals” And this decision comes as a major setback for the AIFF who saw this tournament as a perfect platform in preparation for the 2019 Asia cup.

If the IOA claim that there is no progress being made then it is safe to say that they have either lost their mind or have no clue whatsoever about various sport in the country. However, progress is indeed being made, even if the IOA doesn’t care to acknowledge it.

Back in 2014, the men’s team was ranked 165 in the world. They are now at 97. They have climbed 68 spots in four years flat.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) made attempts to draw home this point to the IOA. But for some strange reason, the IOA failed to see the point at all. This, when football has been classified as a priority sport by the sports ministry.

The reasons listed by the IOA that have denied the football teams participating in the tournament, in reality only holds a mirror up to the association. If dismal performance is the only criteria for players to participate at such a prestigious tournament, then the IOA itself should have shut shop long ago, its offices should have been locked up and the keys thrown in a deep sea.

It is an organization that is so marred with corruption that it had to be suspended twice – once by the International Olympic committee for 14 months on corruption charges and second by the sports ministry of India for openly endorsing corruption and the corrupt. The same IOA that is so concerned about the nation being embarrassed by our football team, which has worked so hard over the past few years to improve their level, have come under the scanner several times for sending in large contingents on junkets.

The AIFF has claimed that while it sent two presentations to the IOA explaining why football needed to be treated differently and how the consistent progress being made could not be dismissed, the IOA did not bother to respond to the pitch made through the presentations.

If winning was the only criteria that mattered, the Afghanistan cricket team wouldn’t have been so proud of what they achieved in recent years. South Korea wouldn’t have had a chance to knock Germany out of the World Cup and Iran wouldn’t have made the entirety of the Asian continent proud of what they showcased at the FIFA World cup.

But at the end of the day, the sad truth is that we live in a nation where everyone rushes to reward the achievers while nobody stands up for those struggling to make a mark in the absence of both basic infrastructure and acknowledgment. A country where the sports minister who by the way was himself a sportsman, has time to take part in fitness challenges on twitter but has no time to spare when a sport is hopelessly left in the shadows. A country that has failed to respect the sporting spirit and shown the world how unfit their sporting priorities are.

Bengaluru FC: Chencho Is A Blue

Chencho

Earlier this week Bengaluru Fc confirmed the signing of the Bhutanese sensation, Chencho Gyeltshen. He becomes Bengaluru’s latest of high profile additions after they attained the signatures of players like Miku last season. Chencho comes into the club at the back of a stellar campaign with Minerva Punjab and led them to their maiden I-league title beating giants like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.

The speedy winger who they call the Bhutanese Ronaldo will be joining a host stellar attacking talent with the likes of Miku, Chettri and Udanta and his addition will make Bengaluru’s attack, arguably the best in the country. Last season he had to shoulder the responsibility of scoring all the goals and spearhead the attack for Minerva Punjab but in this Bengaluru setup, he will share the responsibility with players who possess the same quality as he does if not more. I believe with less pressure and more freedom to express himself with the likes of Partalu and Delgado in midfield behind him, it is the perfect stage for the man to achieve something big.

Incidentally, the first time Chencho demonstrated his abilities in India was when he scored a hattrick against Bengaluru FC in a friendly playing for Minerva Punjab in a game that finished 3 goals to nil.


Speed, stamina, and strength are the three most important features of Indian football simply because there are a very few players that are as skilled as their European counterparts. This is the reason that players like Udanta and Chencho thrive here, the good thing for Bengaluru is that they now have both of them playing for them on either wing.

Chencho finds it easy to get in behind the defenders and create spaces for the other players to finish the goal and he has just the men to do that in the form of Chettri and Miku, the duo mustered a total of 29 goals amongst themselves, a tally more than seven whole teams in last year’s ISL season.

With Chencho, Udanta, and Miku forming the front three and Chettri playing just behind them, Bengaluru have now the most complete and threatening attack in the entirety of Indian football, an asset that can win the league for Bengaluru and continue their path of Success.

Know Your Indian Stars – Sandesh Jhingan

Sandesh Jhingan

Hailing from Chandigarh, Sandesh Jhingan started training for professional football at St Stephens football academy as a 17-year-old and went on to excel and rise above the ranks. His solid performances earned him a call-up to the state team and thus he represented the u-19 Chandigarh team.  In 2011, he received a call-up to represent then second division I-league side United Sikkim where he excelled and played a major part in helping them reaching promotion into the I-league. The team weren’t able to cope with the league and got relegated the following season. Jhingan was seen as a bright young prospect and also received offers from Chinese leagues for a trial but wasn’t able to go as he was drafted into the Indian football team.  

Jhingan was first called up to the national side to 2013 but didn’t feature due to an injury he sustained during their preparatory camp. In 2014, he was drafted into the under 23 squads for the Asian games and didn’t have a good debut match where he gave away an own goal in 5-0 loss to UAE.

His rise to prominence started when he was signed by the Kerala Blasters in the inaugural season of the Indian Super League where he was not only judged the best emerging player but also received the silver medal as they lost the final. He never stopped growing since then, and the once emerging player was transformed into a versatile defender who was rock solid at the back. His defensive abilities are second to none in the current footballing scenario in the country and he deserves every bit of praise that he gets. 

He is an integral part of the National team with his leadership abilities at the back and also his ability to pop up with goals in crunch situations. His aerial prowess is unquestionable and his ability to read game situations is one worth mentioning. He captained the Kerala Blasters this year and also became the first player to notch up 50 games for club at the Indian Super League, he was on many occasions handed the captaincy of the Country as well in the absence of Sunil Chettri and looks like the one who would take over the reigns once the great man retires.  

Sandesh has truly grown into being one of the pillars on which Indian football continues to rise and with age and maturity, the only way is up for the towering defender.