• Stephen Constantine believes Qatar’s experience in youth development can help Indian football
  • India coach overseeing the nation’s U-23 side in Qatar during AFC U-23 Championship qualifying
  • Constantine: "Future member of senior Indian team could well be hidden in Doha."

Qatar’s commitment to youth development can help India develop its own generation of talented players, according to India national team coach Stephen Constantine. The 54-year-old Englishman, who has been overseeing the nation’s U-23 side in Qatar during 2018 AFC U-23 Championship qualifying, told www.sc.qa that the expertise of the Qatar Football Association (QFA) and Aspire Academy could help the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as it continues to prioritise youth development.

“QFA’s policies led to Qatar winning an Asian U-19 title and Aspire have been leaders in talent scouting in the Middle East and Africa,” said Constantine. “Their recent tie-up with Indian Super League club Delhi Dynamos is a step in the right direction. Should it work well, the next step could be for the QFA and AIFF to broaden the scope of the partnership.”

He continued: “Indian football will welcome any external support from transparent institutions with proven expertise in talent development – the QFA and Aspire will have valuable knowledge to share in the fields of scouting, coach education, youth academy, nutrition and sports medicine. The icing on the cake is that they are part of the larger Asian football family.”

Indian football has concentrated on youth development in recent years and the Blue Tigers have risen from 173rd to 96th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking since Constantine took the reins for a second time in 2015. In addition to managing the current crop of Indian talent, Constantine is keen to find out whether young expatriates in Qatar could make their mark in the national team squads. 

“Talented Indian youngsters living in Doha could well be integrated into the official Indian football structure thanks to the AIFF’s overseas talent scouting programme, which was launched with an eye to identify talent for the FIFA U-17 World Cup we will be hosting in October,” he said.

Talented Indian youngsters are encouraged to upload a video of themselves playing football to www.scouting.the-aiff.com. Provided enough players from Qatar submit videos, trials will be held. 

Constantine, who has recently helped reduce the average age of national team players from 30 to 24, added: “We conducted a trial in Dubai for about 300 youngsters and a couple of them ended up training in Germany with the national U-17 team. A future member of the senior Indian team could well be hidden somewhere in Doha.”

Qatar’s commitment to youth development is not the only thing that’s impressed Constantine during his visit. He believes Qatar’s football culture has rubbed off on Indian expatriates.

“We were received by a decent contingent of Indian fans at the airport. I was impressed the local football enthusiasts came out to support the youngsters from their homeland, most of whom do not have senior caps. It is a recognition for the rapid progress made recently by Indian football.”