Stephen Constantine will continue as India's national football coach at least till the 2019 Asian Cup, AIFF general secretary Kushal Das has said, putting to rest speculation about an abrupt sacking following complaints by senior players.
Terming the murmurs around Constantine as hearsay circulating on social media, the top All India Football Federation (AIFF) office-bearer said they don't see a plausible reason to part ways with the coach till the end of the continental showpiece, when his contract expires.
In his second spell with the senior team, the British coach oversaw a dream 13-match unbeaten run that ended with a 1-2 defeat to Kyrgyzstan in an inconsequential away final group game of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign in March.
By the time India suffered that rare recent reverse in Bishkek, the team had made it to the Asian Cup, scheduled to be held in the UAE from January 5 to February 1.
“We don't see any reason to remove him. He has delivered the results, and moreover, the SAFF Cup is coming up and then there is the Asian Cup. His contract expires on January 31 next year,” Das told PTI.
Specifically asked if Constantine is going to guide the team in the Asian Cup, Das responded in the positive.
Apparently, after qualifying for the Asian Cup final rounds, some senior footballers met the AIFF general secretary during a national camp in Mumbai, expressing their grievances.
“I do meet players, support staff on a regular basis. Players can have problems with the coach. I think these rumours picked up pace in the social media,” Das said without divulging any further.
Having joined in February 2016, when the national team was at a dismal 173 in the FIFA rankings, Constantine took it to the top 100, for the first time in more than 20 years.
However, it was speculated that Constantine and captain Sunil Chhetri were not on the same page after the coach, responding to a question on the skipper's impassioned plea to people to come and cheer the team in the Intercontinental Cup in June, said his boys have done enough to not “beg” fans to come and watch them play.
“Look, I have said it before and I don't feel that we should be begging people to come and watch the national team,” Constantine had said.
Interestingly, the AIFF had acted quite swiftly when complaints were made against the under-17 coach Nicolai Adam. Adam was forced to resign in the wake of players' complaints that the German was abusive.