Suzhou: Stephen Constantine raised a few eyebrows when he decided to hand the Indian football team captaincy to defender Sandesh Jhingan instead of the talismanic Sunil Chhetri ahead of their historic friendly against Marcello Lippi’s China on Saturday.
Despite the Blue Tigers putting on a solid display with a remarkable draw, the sudden change of decision over captaincy was questioned by many including Bengaluru FC midfielder Erik Paartalu.
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..— ErikPaartalu (@ErikPaartalu) October 13, 2018
“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. 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,” Constantine said in the pre-match presser.
But it is learnt that the call was taken after the English gaffer had a rift with the Bengaluru FC captain and it is unlikely he will be taking over the captaincy reigns, according to a report by the Times of India.
Chhetri, who has the most caps for the Indian team along with being the record goal-scorer, had earlier made a request to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for a new coach so that fresh ideas could be instilled. However, the national body confirmed Constantine would be staying till his contract expires after the AFC Asian Cup in January 2019.
According to the report, the 34-year-old striker wants Constantine to be replaced by Albert Roca, who quit as Bengaluru FC manager after the Indian Super League (ISL) 2018-18 season.
Chhetri shares a good rapport with the former Barcelona assistant and the Spaniard’s appointment would prolong the veteran forward’s national career.
"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 close source revealed.