by Alam Zeb Safi
MARDAN: English coach Stephen Constantine has gone home after guiding Pakistan to second round in the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
The second round will begin from November 16 with Pakistan taking on Saudi Arabia in their away leg.
This is the first time in Pakistan football history that the nation qualified for the second round.
The question is whether Stephen will return to take charge of the national team?
Sources in the Normalisation Committee told The News that he is a quality coach and every effort is being to bring him back for the second round. Besides Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tajikistan are the other nations which will be playing against each other on home and away basis in Group G from which top two sides will make it to the third round.
“Stephen has gone back home. He told us that he has done his job and he is now going back,” a source told The News.
Stephen, a former India coach, received huge appreciation after he enabled Pakistan to beat Cambodia 1-0 in Islamabad, following a goalless draw in their away leg at Cambodia. He hardly trained his charges for five days at home and two days at Cambodia before he handled the side at a major stage.
Before going to Cambodia he told reporters that they will see Pakistan a different team against Cambodia and he proved that. He left an impression. The way he handled the unit made the difference.
He was very critical of the facilities which Pakistan have and indeed he was very furious.
He told reporters that there should be at least the basic facilities like a proper pitch. And he is justified.
Stephen, according to sources, was also furious over the way the PFF staff behaved in front of him. A source said that Stephen said that NC has hired unprofessional staff.
However a source said that Stephen is a valuable coach and NC will make it every effort to bring him back for the second round which will be tough for Pakistan.
Sources said that he is a man of principles and very tough one and nobody could face him.
This correspondent has learnt that an NC member told Stephen that he should write down on a paper the facilities which he needs for training of his charges for the second round and NC will try to manage those facilities.
An NC member confirmed that top effort is being made to re-hire his services for the second round.
“His initial contract was too short, just for a few days as he had only to handle the unit in the first round against Cambodia. Now as he guided us to the second round we direly need his services for the second round as well,” an NC source told this correspondent.
This correspondent has learnt that NC spent around Rs10 million on three foreign coaches including Stephen who worked for hardly two weeks.
England-based Shadab Iftikhar and Brazilian goalkeeping coach Rogerio Ramos were the others who were part of the coaching staff of the side handled by Stephen.
As per schedule of the second round Pakistan will meet Saudi Arabia in their away leg on November 16. On November 21 Pakistan will host Tajikistan at the Jinnah Stadium Islamabad which has already been approved by FIFA as an international venue.
On March 21 Pakistan will host Jordan and on March 26 Jordan will host Pakistan. On June 6 Pakistan will host Saudi Arabia while on June 11 Tajikistan will host Pakistan.