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Assembling U-23 side in matter of days difficult: Constantine

Indian football head coach Stephen Constantine has rued the lack of "pathways" among various age group sides in the country, which he said has often led to assembling of a team just a few days before a major tournament.

Constantine said the U-23 team, which he is looking after at a national camp at the Ambedkar Stadium here, assembled just a few days prior to the continental qualifiers in Qatar mid next month.

The senior national team has been on a break after beating Kyrgyzstan 1-0 in the Asian Cup Qualifiers on June 13, giving Constantine time to take charge of the Under-23 side.

India are clubbed alongside Syria, Turkmenistan and hosts Qatar. Constantine said the boys under his charge could find it difficult in the tournament as they have been together for just 10 days or so. "I will tell you the difference of Qatar, Syria and Turkmenistan from this Indian team. They (Qatar, Syria and Turkmenistan) must have been together for the last four-five years. We are together for just around 10 days. That is the difference," Constantine said. "We do not have that continued pathway from Under-17 to Under-19 and from Under-19 to Under-23. Some of these boys have been with each other in Under-19 teams but most of them are not. So, it is difficult to make it a team in one week or 10 days. We will try to win matches, we do not go there to lose but it is difficult as these players are not long enough together," he said.

"Getting together 28-30 boys from all over India and pulling them together in a team is a stress. We are trying to make it a team now," said the 54-year-old, who began his second stint as senior team coach in March last year. Constantine was senior Indian coach in 2002-05.

He also said the Under-17 boys under Luis Norton de Matos need a lot of work ahead of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. "They need a lot of work. They had quite a lot of time together now. Luis has been with them for the last three-four months. Let us see and I hope they give a good account of themselves. But it will be difficult for them, very difficult."

Constantine was with the Under-17 boys for a brief period between the sacking of Nicolai Adam and appointment of Luis de Norton. Constantine is happy about the proposed domestic structure. He feels that two leagues running parallel will be beneficial for Indian football as it will give more Indians opportunity to play in top competitions. "My understanding is that there will be two parallel leagues, the team that wins the I-League will go on to play in the AFC Champions League (play-offs), the ISL champions will play in the AFC Cup

play-offs. "Now, since the I-League champions are going to the AFC Champions League, it is the bigger league of the two, that is my understanding. There will be a Super Cup which will be a knock-out. Teams (from ISL and I-League) will be competing each other for the Super Cup or whatever Cup they call it," he said.
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