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.
— ESPN India (@ESPNIndia) January 14, 2019
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.
At the end of the day, and in spite of the limitations he faced, Constantine did well. Now we are back to the same cycle of trying to improve the national team's 'style of football' with no intention of addressing actual problems.
— Bhargab Sarmah (@BhargabSarmah) January 14, 2019
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.
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) January 14, 2019
“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.”
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 pic.twitter.com/S792tJ6r1h
— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) January 14, 2019
“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.
Really proud of our @IndianFootball team achievements over the last 4 years and appreciative of all of the support from the AIFF, the players, our support staff and the wonderful fans. Jai Hind!
— StephenConstantine (@StephenConstan) January 15, 2019
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.”
I think Stephen Constantine took #India as far as he could. A big leap in #FIFA ranking under his leadership.. think it’s time for a change & new direction for the national team .. Will be interesting to see who steps into his shoes.. It’s an exciting era in #IndianFootball 🇮🇳⚽️ https://t.co/7cCF0xoj6s
— Baljit Rihal (@BaljitRihal) January 14, 2019
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.”
— Sport360° (@Sport360) January 15, 2019
“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.