Constantine likely to stay on as Pak football coach [The News]

Constantine likely to stay on as Pak football coach [The News]

by Alam Zeb Safi

LAHORE: Stephen Constantine has already penned his name in the record books of Pakistan football. Under his coaching Pakistan created history when they qualified for the second round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

This is the first time that Pakistan qualified for the second round since making their debut in the 1990 World Cup Qualifiers after defeating Cambodia 1-0 in Islamabad on October 17, days after holding the same oppositions to a goalless draw in the away leg in Cambodia on October 12.

In the second round Pakistan lost to Saudi Arabia 4-0 in Al-Ahsa on November 16 before going down to Tajikistan 6-1 at Islamabad’s Jinnah Stadium on November 21.

Jordan are the other side in the four-team Group G from which top two teams will qualify for the third round while the bottom two sides will play in the 2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers.

On March 21 Pakistan will host Jordan while on March 26 Jordan will host Pakistan. On June 6 Pakistan will host Saudi Arabia while on June 11 Pakistan will face Tajikistan at the latter’s backyard.

The question is whether Stephen will handle the Green-shirts in the March window against Jordan.

Well-placed sources told ‘The News’ that Stephen has ‘indicated’ that he will coach Pakistan as long as Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) affairs will be handled by the Normalisation Committee’s chairman Haroon Malik.

Sources said that Haroon has requested Stephen to stay back and it is expected that he may serve Pakistan until the end of March.

Stephen hardly remained with Pakistan team for a month. He took charge of the brigade less than a week before the Green-shirts’ departure for Cambodia for their away leg in the first round. For the second round he remained with the side for two weeks.

He looked a bit happy with the way his brigade performed against Saudi Arabia under a heavy downpour in Al-Ahsa but was extremely unhappy with his boys’ below-par showing at home against Tajikistan. He kept giving statements that there was need of league which could keep the home-grown boys engaged in activities. And he was justified. Pakistan’s home-grown lot is a bit raw and unprepared due to lack of Premier League which used to keep the players busy for months.

“No doubt he (Stephen) is a fine coach,” an NC source told The News. “He has done a good job for us and it was because of him that Pakistan team qualified for the second round and so are gaining the experience in the second round by facing tough oppositions like Saudi Arabia which have played six World Cups,” the source said. “Yes, the intent is the same. The camp is expected in February,” a source said.

Published in The News, 3 December 2023