We’ve talked to Stephen Constantine, India National Team Head Coach, to find out more on his amazing experience and trade secrets.
Constantine gave us also a rich extract from his Award-winning book “FROM DELHI TO THE DEN”, where he recalls the steps of his life, from the Fourth Division to the National Team. You can download it at the bottom of this page.
Stephen Constantine, you are the football’s most travelled coach, having managed teams across 4 continents. Your book “FROM DELHI TO THE DEN” has already won “Football Book of the Year” in Uk and tells your story in football, from the Cypriot fourth division to the India National Team. What do you think is needed to be an international coach?
Well I think there are a number of things, but perhaps the most important one is the ability to understand the particular culture you are in and that it is you who needs to change not the people in the country you are in.
Your story started when you left Cyprus to US to become a football player. Is playing football a necessary step to become a professional football coach?
I don’t think it is absolutely necessary, after all you are not going to be playing yourself, you need to be able to teach, to listen and make difficult decisions under pressure. As long as players feel you are going to make them better I don’t think it is important who is helping them.
As a coach you have managed five national teams, Nepal, Malawi, Sudan, Rwanda, India (twice). You’ve said: “My job is supposed to be just as coach of the national team but it’s about building foundations”. How long does it take to build the team identity?
Well it is not a short term process that’s for sure and of course you need the magic word Time to be able to do that, of course winning games breeds confidence but most of my jobs are about building teams to last. My mentality going into jobs is that I am going to be there forever and therefore I want to make sure that everything is working full capacity, so I will go and watch the young players, watch the youth coaches, be involved in the scouting and of course the recruitment of players and as a FIFA instructor be in a position to help in coaching the coaches at the Association or club. I think if you show interest in others and get them to understand what you are trying to do it will for sure have a positive effect on everyone.
You took the Indian team from 173 to 96 in the FIFA rankings. How did you do it?
I had a group of players who gave me everything, I selected a back room staff that like me the only thing there thinking about is making sure we are all doing what we are there for. The chemisrty among the staff is very important for me and of course everyone being good at their job. Having a free hand and no interference is also very important and knowing that the people who have employed you trust you to do the best job you can, I have to thank the AIFF for their support and letting me do what I do best.
Football is now the third most popular sport to watch in India, What stage of professionalism has been reached by the I League? Has India developed its own Managers’ School?
It is slowly getting there these things take time to try and cultivate a culture is not easy , the new Indian Super League has really bought the game to all Indians and they in turn have embraced the game. It will of course take some time before it is at the stage where we are producing good quality coaches and managers but we are on the right path.
If somebody wanted to chase a job in football in India, what would your suggestion be?
Get your qualifications! understand how the game is played and what goes into it, a love of the game is not enough.
Sudan, Malawi, Rwanda: What challenges does a coach face in African countries? How should a coach deal with lack of infrastructure, for example?
The list is quite long but the talent and the passion Africans have to play the game and do well makes it worth it. Of course there are problems everywhere you go but many of the problems in Africa are self-inflicted and in many cases could be avoided. Dealing with the lack of infrastructure is well at times frustrating but you know that going into Africa. You are going to face these kind of problems so there is not point complaining the question is what are you going to do about it ? Adapt or die
Could technology help emerging leagues to improve? How do you use technology in football?
I would say Yes anything that is going to make the game better is good, we use it for analysis on our performance on opponents and of course as a tool to develop players and coaches alike.
What does it mean working in Black Africa or Arab Africa? How does culture impact on football?
Africa is Africa of course and huge continent, but there are several countries in the North that are predominately Arab, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Libya. The mentality is very different as is the culture and you need to understand that when working in these countries.
But you also managed clubs, which are the main differences between coaching a Club and a National team?
The wait between games !! at the National team you play 1 or 2 games in 10 days then have to wait for 2 maybe 3 months for the next game and it is a long time to wait if you have lost your last game. At the National team you’re always trying to give the players as much information as you can because you only have a few days to work with the players. Obviously at clubs you get more time to work on things and things are done over time. I do love the buzz at the National Team level representing an entire country is such a great feeling. But I do miss the day to day involvement that you get at a club.
How do you get into players’ head to produce results? Should you adapt coaching techniques and tactics to player’s quality or transfer your football to them?
That is a good question and there is no easy answer, firstly a player needs to know that you have a genuine interest and that you can make him better. First and foremost, there humans and whatever the level they need to be treated with respect. With regard to the tactical aspect of course you must adapt to the level of your players and not make things too complicated. Again it is all about you knowing the level of your players and what amount of information they can take in.
Would you be ready to coach again in European football? What would you bring to the table from your experience around the world?
Yes I would love to come back and coach in Europe, it really is one of the best places to be for football. Well having worked across 4 continents and being a FIFA instructor for the last 18 years, I believe has given me a huge advantage in terms of knowing about players, teams and being completely up to date with football all over the world. I think this is a huge factor when it comes to bringing in players from around the world. My ability to adapt to my surroundings and of course dealing with players from different cultures is also an important aspect of today’s game. At the end of the day though it is all about results and I have been able to improve teams where ever I have been.
Learn more about Stephen Constantine, download the free extract of his book “FROM DELHI TO THE DEN”.