The coach of the Indian football team has told his bosses to stand up to the country’s domineering television companies if they ever want the game to flourish in India.
Stephen Constantine, who is preparing for India’s World Cup qualifier against Iran in Bangalore next week, has seen friendly matches scrapped and domestic league matches moved to hotter afternoon times by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to accommodate demands from television companies.
The English coach, in his second spell in charge, called on the AIFF to synchronise its calendar with world governing body FIFA and the television companies to give the country, ranked 156th in the world, a chance of competing internationally.
“Is it that difficult to sync your calendar? It’s not when you’ve the development of the game (as target). It is when you’re thinking about TV ratings,” he was quoted as saying by The Indian Express on Wednesday.
“It’s not possible that a TV station can tell us when we can start our season. But that seems to be one of the problems.”
The much-travelled London-born coach returned to take charge of India in January, having ended his first spell in 2005 and then going on to manage Malawi, Sudan and Rwanda among others.
He helped India advance through the first round of World Cup qualifiers thanks to a 2-0 success over another of his former sides, Nepal, but the second phase has started with 2-1 losses at home to Oman and away to Guam.
After the Guam defeat, Constantine hoped to be taking part in the South Asian Football Championships but his scheduling requests fell on deaf ears.
“I had asked it to be held after the Guam game in June when I had the players together for a couple of weeks. For reasons unknown to me, it’s December,” said Constantine, who was worried about player availability with the tournament coming on the back of the Indian Super League.
“The ISL final is on December 20. And then on 23rd you start the SAFF. So I would not be able to take players from four teams who are in the semi-final.
“I have to decide when I can start the camp. For me, it defies logic — from our point of view.”