Sunil Chhetri, who is also fondly known as Captain fantastic, was removed as Indian skipper ahead of their first friendly match against China on Saturday. Stephen Constantine’s decision to hand over the captaincy to defender Sandesh Jhingan has raised a few eyebrows.

Though India put up a solid defence against China as the match was drawn, the sudden change in captaincy did not go down well with many including Bengaluru FC midfielder Erik Paartalu.

Questioning Stephen Constantine’s decision, Paartalu posted on Twitter, ” Someone please explain the change of captaincy for @IndianFootball asking for a mate….?”

” For the record, nothing against Sandesh, great defender, probably India’s best! But can’t understand taking something away from someone so important to football in general in this country..,” Paartalu added in another Tweet.

 

Speaking to the media at the pre-match press conference, Constantine said, “I think the captain has to reflect the attitude of the coach. Sandesh first played for me four years ago. He is a fighter and a leader. He gives everything on the pitch which most of the players do,” before adding, “I think he is going to be one of the leaders for India going forward. Keeping the magnitude of the game in mind, I believe he deserves to lead the team.”

However, as per a report published in Times of India, Sunil Chhetri was removed as skipper after he had a rift with Stephen Constantine and it is unlikely the 34-year-old will be taking over the captaincy reigns.

Sunil Chhetri, who is also third highest goal scorer among active players after Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi, had earlier made a request to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for a new coach. But AIFF has confirmed that Constantine would be staying as the team’s coach till his contract expires.

Chhetri wanted Constantine to be replaced by former Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca.

“The situation is such that both have no option but to work with each other. AIFF doesn’t want to change the coach till the AFC Asian Cup because that would unsettle the team. On the other hand, Constantine cannot drop Chhetri because everyone in the team looks up to him and also because of the high work rate he puts in all the time,” a source was quoted as saying to TOI.