About Stephen Constantine
Stephen Constantine discovered his passion for coaching aged 26, while still a professional player in the United States, when he helped train the New York Freedoms’ youth team. The following year, a serious knee injury ended his playing career, but by then Stephen had already gained his US Soccer Federation ‘C’ Licence.
Just over ten years later, Stephen’s reputation was recognised with his appointment aged just 38 to the panel of FIFA Coach Instructors - one of the youngest to be granted the honour. He gained his UEFA Professional License in 2004.
Not only is Stephen a highly capable coach, but he has constantly led teams to success - despite taking some of the most challenging jobs in world football.
Click the links below to read about Stephen’s career in football:
Stephen returned to Cyprus after spending a year in Sudan, where he helped lay the foundations for their qualification for the 2012 African Cup of Nations. In January 2010, Stephen signed an 18-month contract with Apep - a club he’s coached successfully twice before. After the club president announced his shock resignation at the end of the 2010-2011, citing a lack of funds, Stephen reluctantly agreed to terminate his contract, in order to help the club avoid administration.
NEA SALAMINA 2010-2012
In October 2011 Nea Salamina approached him to Manage the club who at that time were lying at the foot of the 2nd Division. Under his guidance, the club went on an amazing 17-game unbeaten run, finishing the season top of the table. The promotion to the 1st division was described in the Greek media as something of a miracle given where they were when he took over. In his second season the club had arguably their most successful season in the clubs history when they finished in 6th place. Notable results in the 2011-2012 season were of course the famous 1-0 victory over Apoel Nicosia who had reached the last Quarter Finals of the 2011-12 Champions League. The financial problems that have besieged the club over the years took its toll as both coaching staff and players had gone several months without salary's, when Stephen was asked to renew his contract he declined as the club was unable to assure him that the same situation would not occur.
ETHNIKOS ACHNAS 2012-2013
In late November Stephen agreed to sign a short term contract with Ethnikos who had not won a game all season. The clubs first league win in 8 months and 7 days came away at his old club Nea Salamina !!!! a 1-0 win. The reception he received from the RED CLUB the Nea Salamina faithful was fantastic as the whole stadium rose to their feet to applaud their former manager upon taking his seat in the oppositions dugout. Ethnikos then went on a 3 game winning streak and a 4 game unbeaten run to climb their way out of relegation trouble. The financial problems that Ethnikos were facing were also mounting as both coaches and players were unpaid for 4 months.In early March the club informed Stephen that they could no longer afford to pay his salary and he agreed to mutually terminate his contract.
Sudan: national coach 2009
Stephen joined the Sudanese national team before their final round of qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, which doubled as the qualifiers for the African Cup of Nations. Sudan were the lowest-ranked team in their group, which included Ghana, Benin, and Mali, and weren't expected to qualify.
Despite drawing their opening game against Mali, they lost their remaining group games, and finished bottom. A year after arriving in Khartoum - and after witnessing another power struggle in African football - Stephen returned to Cyprus.
"It was a fantastic experience in Sudan," said Stephen. "There was some amazing atmosphere for the qualifiers, both home and away. The players were great to work with and some of them improved massively while I was there. But in some ways, I always felt up against it. Sudanese football is dominated by two massive clubs, and they resented me picking players from elsewhere.
"I brought in lots of new, young players from around the country, but unfortunately we couldn't get the results. All the games were close though, and I left with my head held high.
“It has to be said, we suffered some appalling luck in the six qualifiers - not least the Ghana away game falling during Ramadan, which meant the players didn't eat before kick off!"
Malawi: national team coach, 2006-2008
At Malawi, Stephen inherited an ageing and underperforming team. Expectations were unrealistically high, given the evident need to rebuild. Stephen identified a number of young players that he felt could take the team forward - and remained resolute, despite fierce opposition from some quarters.
As he anticipated, the initial results were disappointing. However, subsequent performances proved him right.
“I knew we’d struggle to begin with because it takes time for new players to settle in to the team,” says Stephen. “But I knew what had to be done and I was determined to see it through.
“We lost the first five games, but I could see things were beginning to come together and we were moving in the right direction. As a coach you’re always aware that you’re in the results business, so of course I was under pressure. Some people - former players, journalists, and some officials - made it harder than it needed to be.”
Stephen was vindicated when, for the first time in their history, Malawi won three consecutive matches, including an impressive away win in Namibia. The team went on to qualify for the final stages of the World Cup qualifiers with wins over Egypt and DR Congo on the way.
Millwall FC: first team coach, 2005-2006
Stephen’s dream was to coach in England. His chance came when Championship side Millwall asked him to come in as first team coach. Although Stephen thoroughly enjoyed his time there, he found it frustrating that he would prepare the players, but the manager picked the team and decided the tactics.
“My season in the English Championship was a huge experience, but I would be lying if I said that all of it was positive,” he says. “The role was new to me. I had up to this point always been the one calling the shots, and not being able to do so was difficult. Millwall were struggling and had not managed to win after seven league games.
“With several key players leaving, and many others wanting to leave, it really was an uphill task trying to keep them afloat. They were already onto their second manager of the season by the time I arrived. The first lasted all of 32 days and was sacked without taking charge of a single competitive game. After going seven games without a win, his replacement decided he needed some help and I got the call.
“I had ten days before my first game. We focused on defending and getting behind the ball. During that period we also managed to bring in a few new players on loan, and in my first game away to Wolves we won 2-1. That was followed by another 2-1 at Sheffield Wednesday. It was the start of a seven game unbeaten run. It was a terrific turnaround, and the players responded magnificently.
“But it was then that the problems surrounding the club started to emerge. The chairman resigned, while the manager decided he wanted to leave. By Christmas, the manager got his wish, as he was sacked, and we were onto our third manager of the season.
“In the second half of the season, results improved, but we lacked any real quality, especially up front, which was to prove our downfall. Relegation was inevitable. However, I would like to say that the Millwall fans were terrific, and I will never forget the way they treated me. It was a great disappointment that I could not have done more for them.”
India: national manager, 2002-2005
As coach of India, Stephen concentrated on developing the youth teams and rousing a stagnating senior side. He was instrumental in improving facilities, training methods, and the players’ mental approach.
“When I arrived, things needed shaking up,” he says. “There was also a culture of complacency - once you were in the squad, you were safe for five years. I've been happy to drop some of the old guard and not afraid to pick 17-year-olds if they are good enough.”
The results spoke for themselves. In his first tournament, Stephen guided the U-23s to victory in the 2002 LG Cup Final against Vietnam's full national side. It was India's first trophy of any significance outside of the sub-continent in more than 40 years.
The improvements were again apparent at the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea, where India were only denied a place in the last eight by a single goal. Stephen then took the U-18s to the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland, and on to Wales to compete for the Ian Rush trophy, which they won by upsetting Botafogo of Brazil 3-0 in the final.
Although India failed to qualify for the 2004 Asian Cup, the senior team shone in a silver medal-winning performance in the inaugural Afro-Asian Games, with victories over Rwanda and Zimbabwe (then 85 places ahead of India in the world rankings). Meanwhile, both the U-17 and U-20 teams reached the AFC Youth Championships in 2004.
As a result, Indian football has steadily earned greater respect, both within the country and abroad. In November 2003, Stephen was named AFC Manager of the Month, an award he dedicated to his players.
While not every contest ended favourably - losses to Pakistan and Bangladesh in the 2003 SAF Cup and defeats in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers among the more disappointing - there is little doubt of the progress made.
"Where was Indian football three years ago? He has come in and given us confidence, spirit and the will to win. We owe him a lot. It will be a disaster should he leave."
S. Venkatesh, Mahindra United Midfielder
Nepal: national manager, 1999-2001
Before his India appointment, Stephen made his mark, and his reputation, by turning a Nepali national side that had not won two consecutive matches in the previous five years into a football fairytale. With only seven weeks to get the team into shape for the regional Olympiad, the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games, he had his work cut out.
“There was a rabble of 35 players training on a field with a terrible pitch and no nets in the goals - and each of the 35 players was wearing different coloured shirts and socks,” he says.
“There was no physio or doctor, the diet was rice and dhal (lentils) three times a day. There was no organisation, no planning. It was like Hackney Marshes - but this was the national team.”
Nevertheless, with just under two months' preparation, the team managed to qualify from their group. To reinforce his players' growing sense of unity, and to demonstrate solidarity with the team, Stephen wore the Nepalese traditional costume for the semi-final. The gesture was not lost on them or their countrymen, who were by now ecstatic over their national team's success. The Nepalese, beyond all expectations, went on to reach the final where they lost to Bangladesh 1-0.
"Everybody was very happy when we saw him in the national dress...Our boys' performance in the SAF Games was excellent. They played very well, even in the final. This is really a great honour and a great moment in their lives."
Ganesh Thapa, President, All Nepal Football Association
For their history-making efforts, the entire squad and staff were recognised by the late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev at the royal palace, where Stephen was awarded the Prabal Gorkha Dakshin Baahu (the Nepalese equivalent of the British OBE), the highest honour the country can give a foreigner.
As if that wasn't enough, Stephen went on to lead the U-16s to the finals of the Asian Youth Championship in Vietnam that September, the first time that any Nepalese national side, at any level, had ever qualified for the finals of any such competition.
After his decision to leave Nepal in 2001, due to a power struggle within the ANFA that was hurting the game, he took the assistant directorship of AFC Bournemouth’s youth academy, enjoying a successful stint in charge of the Cherries' under-16s.
While his time in Nepal may sound the stuff of fairytales, the triumphs were not isolated. Stephen enjoyed similar success in his early coaching years in Cyprus, where he spent part of his childhood.
In mid-1992, Stephen left the US to become assistant coach for Apollon Limassol's under-21s, guiding them to second place in the league and runners-up in the cup. Several of the youngsters he worked with went on to represent Cyprus at senior national level.
But it was during the 1994-95 season as manager for struggling fourth division side Achilleas that Stephen first demonstrated his skill in changing a team's fortunes. Achilleas, sitting one off the bottom of the table, went unbeaten in their first nine games under him and avoided relegation in the last match of the season. Not content to rest on that success, he helped the club knock out first and second division opponents in the Cyprus Cup the following year, a first for Cypriot football.
Stephen then steered second division Apep FC back into the first division, after starting off as reserve team manager, before being named first-team manager eight games into the season.
By 1996, he was with first division outfit Ael FC where, as Director of Youth, he coached the under 16s to the youth championship and the national cup, going unbeaten in both campaigns. It was the first double in the club's history.
"His determination and sheer persistence working with our youth sides provided the players with an invaluable education that will stay with them throughout their careers. The fact that a number of these players went on to represent the first team and their national side speaks volumes about Stephen's qualities as a coach." Dimitris Solomonides, President, AEL FC.
During these years, Stephen earned the FA Advanced and UEFA A Licences. In 1999, in order to obtain the USSF A Licence, he returned to the US - the place where he first caught the coaching bug ten years earlier.
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