Coach Stephen Constantine says the Indian football team has done enough in the last few years to merit a decent crowd turnout, and begging for support was one thing it did not deserve.
Constantine was asked about skipper Sunil Chhetri’s impassioned plea urging people to come and cheer the team in the ongoing Intercontinental Cup here.
Chhetri’s video post struck a chord with the Mumbaikars, who turned up in droves for the second game against Kenya, two days after giving the tournament opener a miss.
It was Chhetri’s 100th international game and he made it memorable by scoring a brace and guiding India into the final following a 3-0 win.
As the discussion turned to crowd at the post-match press conference, Constantine said, “Look, I have said it before and I don’t feel that we should be begging people to come and watch the national team.
“The response today was unbelievable, what I expect from the Blue Pilgrims and the rest of the people, it’s not only the Blue Pilgrims.
“… But the national team is playing in the manner, we’ve been playing for last three and half years, and the things that we have achieved in three and half years, (and) we still feel disappointed to see such a crowd in the last game.
He added, “Today I thank every single one of them and I expect them to be here for the following two games.”
From 2000 for the game against Chinese Taipei, the number of fans swelled to almost 9000 for last night’s match, pretty impressive for a stadium that can accommodate around 10000 people.
Courtesy the win, India are in the final of the competition, to be played on June 10, and before that they take on New Zealand on Thursday.
Constantine said that he was delighted over this win and for Chhetri.
“I was thinking before this game, who is going to spoil this day for him (Chhetri) and for us. I am delighted that he got a couple of goals and obviously delighted that we won. So, I don’t think that he is going to forget it for some time,” the coach stated.
Constantine said that the aim was to make the final of the four-nation tournament.
“Firstly I am going to congratulate the boys for a hard-fought win. Difficult conditions obviously because with the rain, we couldn’t play particularly well in the first half, gave them too much space, difficult to play in those conditions.
“By the way another clean-sheet, thank you (pointing towards Sandesh Jhinghan). It takes us into the final of this tournament, which is what we wanted to achieve from the beginning. (Focus on) next game (now),” noted Constantine.
The gaffer highlighted the work rate of the players in the comprehensive victory and also pointed out that the performance in the second half was far better than the first.
” But in the second half, we did the job that we were supposed to do. As we did in the previous game, won most of the second balls in the second half, controlled the tempo, controlled the pace.
Kenya, they are always going to be a difficult side, , whichever team they bring. I am very pleased at winning, he added.
“The second half, we were much much better and that is the reason we won the game,” Constantine noted.
The head coach also said that at the lemon break, players were showed clippings of how the proceedings went in the first half.
He thanked the staff at the Andheri Sports Complex for the work they put in, despite heavy rain lashing in the first half.
He also requested the government to send a team to the Asian Games in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, central defender Sandesh Jhinghan opined that there was no added pressure for the game.
“There is never any pressure to play in front of such a full crowd. It was extra motivation from the moment we entered the stadium.