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  Monday, 13 January, 2003, 10:37 GMT
Better late than never
Fans in Bangladesh cheer on their team
Bangladeshi fans are finally getting some football
Postponed from it's original slot in late 2001 because of political interference in Bangladesh's Football Association, the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship is finally underway in Dhaka, giving some much needed competition for the continent's national teams.

India are seeking to win their fourth trophy in five editions of the tournament, but like many of the countries taking part their senior side has not seen real competition since the World Cup qualifiers, which in India's case is as long ago as May 2001.

"I don't think you can say we are overwhelming favourites because India has not played a competitive match at senior level for almost two years!" warns their English coach Stephen Constantine.

"The tournament is in Bangladesh and I am sure they will be one of the favourites as well as the Maldives so I don't think it is a foregone conclusion that we turn up and that's it.

"As I said Bangladesh will be strong as always, Maldives have been improving and will also be tough, and you can not discount Pakistan Sri Lanka and Nepal on any given day they can beat any of the other teams in the region".

Constantine has enjoyed some success since taking over as coach midway through 2002.

Formerly in charge of Nepal with whom he won a silver medal at the 1999 SAF Games, the 40-year-old's India under-23 team won a four-nation tournament in Vietnam on their way to the Asian Games, where victories over Bangladesh and Turkmenistan and a narrow 2-0 defeat to China were considered an outstanding performance.

"Nepal was a great experience for me, but I feel in any job you go into you must have a clear head and be open to new things and ideas," Constantine says.

"I have always been this way to the degree that my wife calls me a chameleon!! It's because I like to dive into the culture and the way of thinking of my players. If you can appreciate how they think and what it is they want for themselves and their ambitions it is a bonus, and ultimately you can squeeze that little bit extra when you need it."


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