Constantine urges youngsters to step up against Jordan in Chhetri’s absence

The Indian national football team will play an international friendly against Jordan at the King Abdullah II Stadium in Amman on November 17. The Blue Tigers are currently undergoing a three-day preparatory camp in New Delhi and will leave for Jordan on November 15 for what will be an important match leading up to their AFC Asian Cup campaign in 2019.

India head coach Stephen Constantine, on Wednesday, interacted with the media at a press conference and addressed some questions about the upcoming match. Constantine will be without the services of India's top-scorer Sunil Chhetri who will miss the trip to Jordan due to an ankle injury. When asked how big a loss it will be for the team, Constantine said, "Sunil missing is a blow. He’s obviously a great player. He’s been fantastic over the last four years for me. I believe he’s scored more goals in his time with me than any other time. So, he’ll be a loss for us."

However, the veteran coach also suggested that his star man's absence might be an opportunity for some of the youngsters to step up and prove their mettle. "But it just gives opportunities to some of the other younger players to step up. Hopefully, we can find, not a replacement because I don’t think you replace a player of his calibre, but somebody who can fill his shoes. And we’ll see if they can step up. We don’t often play without him. It’s time we found somebody. I mean, there will come a day when he will not be there. So, it’s better we find somebody now while he’s still around. He can still pass on his knowledge and experience and that’s why we have some of the younger players, strikers, in and around. At the moment, we need to find somebody that will be there when he’s gone so we don’t have a void," he said.

When asked how the match against Jordan can help his team prepare for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup, Constantine said, "Jordan are a good side. They have a number of very very good, interesting, players. The moment that we qualified, I sat down and thought that 'Well, we need to play these teams leading up to the Asian Cup'. It’s going to be tough and we’re going to be under pressure."

"I know some people like to say we play long ball. I have never ever said to the boys at any stage in the four years that play long ball when you have time to play it. If you don’t have time to play and you’re under pressure, you do what you need to do. If you make a mistake in and around the 18-yard box, you concede. We don’t want to concede. It’s hard enough playing against these teams," he added.

Constantine also announced he would like to play more matches to prepare for the AFC Asian Cup. "I’d like about four or five (matches) between now and then. But obviously, that’s not going to happen. We got Jordan, then we got Oman. And there’s one other game, 30-31st of December, that has not been confirmed. Look, it’s never enough time. You give me ten days, I want 12. You give me 15, I want 18. This is the major complaint that every national coach will have. It's never enough time. I’m not going to lie to you and say 10-12 days enough time. It’s not. But that’s what I got. I have to get on with it. And we will not make excuses," he opined.

Constantine gave the captain's arm-band to Sandesh Jhingan in India's last match against the People's Republic of China despite Chhetri playing that game. When asked who will lead the side out against Jordan, the Englishman suggested his team doesn't have one specific captain but has many leaders. "Subrata Paul has been the captain, Sandesh has been the captain, Anirudh Thapa has been the captain, Subhasish Bose has been the captain. What we try to do is, when you have one captain, you generally get one voice and when you have four captains, you get four voices and a bigger opinion from all the players. I’m trying to develop the team from top to bottom and we have leaders in our team. We have new leaders. Not replacements. Sunil is a captain, he will always be the captain, but he’ll always be one of the captains," he said.

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