Journal’s Opdyke on Stephen Constantine, One-Man Soccer NGO

Posted in Football, We Aren't The World at 2:31 pm by

If you spend any time looking at the list of American basketball players doing their thing abroad — and there’s no reason why you should — you’re more or less guaranteed a couple of “oh wow” moments. As fans of teams or programs, the constant churn of personnel (that is, people) on and off of rosters enforces a serious foreshortening of our memories. Marquis Estill almost made the Philadelphia 76ers a few years ago, but he didn’t stop playing basketball after that didn’t work out (he’s in the United Arab Emirates); and this is true of the legions of Korleone Youngs and Matt Friejes and Rodney Whites and whoever else you might remember for your own reasons — their careers (that is, jobs) don’t expire with their 10-day contracts, they just get moved to China.

In contrast to the drudgery of our (my) day-to-day, the kind of travel and compromise required of people in pro sports doesn’t necessarily seem that bad. It’s just that, at all but the highest levels, there’s an extraordinary amount of travel-you-would-rather-not-do and ridiculous compromise required to make these already time-limited gigs sustainable. There is no perfect job, I’m saying. You already know this, and probably don’t need to be reminded. But Stephen Constantine’s life, as described by Jeff Opdyke in a story for the Wall Street Journal, is an interesting reminder of how extremely onerous pro-sport dues can be, especially for those with the least to lose.

Constantine is a coach who specializes in turning around national soccer programs, and has had great success in elevating ultra-moribund national teams in Malawi, India and Nepal into respectability. Constantine’s goal is a coaching gig in the United States or the UK, but this particular round of establishing himself means that the 46-year-old lives apart from his wife and daughters — who live in Cyprus (naturally) where he once coached (double-naturally) — and currently resides in… Sudan. Where he is trying to turn around a national soccer program in a country that has something of a genocide problem.

œI seem to get the really tough jobs others don™t want, Mr. Constantine said while his team trained on a Tunisian beach. œPeople back in England say I™m dedicated and brave to take these coaching jobs, but I don™t see that. It sounds corny, but I feel privileged making my living doing what I love”building football teams.

A key test for Sudan comes in a World Cup qualifier Saturday , when African powerhouse Ghana visits Khartoum. Few expect Sudan to slay a four-time African cup winner that qualified for the last World Cup and multiple Olympics and is stacked with athletes playing throughout Europe™s top leagues. Then again, Sudan has home turf. And in the last home qualifier in March, the Desert Hawks, with five players who had never played internationally, tied significantly higher-ranked Mali.

Even for Mr. Constantine, his new assignment is like no other. Sudan is blanketed by dire travel warnings that include threats of land mines and terrorist attacks. Just days after his arrival, the International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. British Embassy personnel urged Mr. Constantine to skip his first match for safety concerns. He ignored the warning.

So, yeah, working on the payroll of a guy convicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity is probably tougher than a gig that involves having Wally Matthews agitating self-amusedly for your firing. But it’s a living, I guess. It’s worth reading the whole piece.

One response to “Journal’s Opdyke on Stephen Constantine, One-Man Soccer NGO”

  1. Khalid says:

    Hi there, We make documentaries on the soccer on non profit basis. Please find the report about one such film on Afghan football. We would like to collaborate with you in future.

    Outfield production
    [email protected]


    Breakthrough film shows softer side of Chaman
    By Shazad Ali
    Wednesday, 17 Jun, 2009 | 10:45 PM PST |

    Players from Afghan Football Club and KRL Islamabad fight for the ball as a huge crowd looks on in Chaman — APP photo.

    Lyari footballers turn to life of crime


    KARACHI: Cutting through the fog of terrorism enveloping the region, a group of amateurs screened a documentary entited ‘The Last Refuge of Afghans’ which brought a message of peace and prosperity through football on Wednesday.

    ‘There is so much anarchy and fighting in Pakistan and the region, but we believe that peace can brought through football. And for that, town of Chaman in Balochistan and its football-loving people are best example.’

    ‘The theme of this movie was [to] fight as hard [as] people want to, but on the field of football,’ the producer of the documentary Khalid Hasan Khan told Dawn.com at Goethe-Institut Pakistan .

    According to Khalid, Chaman was perfect example of showing how to live peacefully with tolerance for other religions and ideas.

    Recollecting his observations during filming, the producer said while Pashtuns were known as feared tribal warriors always brandishing weapons, locals in Chaman were quite different.

    ‘There are so many things about people of Chaman. But to sum up I truly believe they are quite different to the people in the north. They (Chaman locals) are peaceful and peace-loving people unlike other Pashtun tribes. There are misconceptions about the area,’ he said.

    The 20-minute documentary directed by M. Wasim, describes how team members from Pakistan ’s Afghan Club from Chaman were caught by the Taliban a few years ago while playing a match against a local outfit. The Taliban shaved the heads of the Pakistani players for playing in an ‘un-Islamic dress’ (shorts) and then deported.

    However, Mohammad Saeed, the secretary of the Balochistan Football Association (BFA) claimed in the documentary that later local politicians apologized for the incident. The BFA official claimed that it was actually rival club members who were involved not the Taliban.

    ‘You see there was no animosity or agitation among the people of Chaman for the Afghans or Taliban across the border even after the incident. And this shows how tolerant they are,’ said Khalid.

    The producer said the title of the film (The Last Refuge of the Afghans) came about since the people of Chaman also called themselves Afghans.

    ‘Chaman has abundant talent in soccer and we have players in our national team from this area. We want to show that it is only football which is now the last refuge for Afghans which means all Pashtuns either from NWFP, Fata, Balochistan or Afghans who have migrated from Afghanistan to Chaman.’

    Abdul Qayyum Khadakoo, founding member of Afghan Club, argued that Chaman had always been a peaceful region with people displaying both tolerance and a deep love of football.

    ‘I agree that Afghans who have migrated from Afghanistan wanted to interfere in our lives.. But we told them in clear terms that please do not interfere in our system. They (Afghans) dominate our businesses but we don’t have any objection. We live in complete harmony,’ he told a jam-packed audience..

    Qayyum says unlike other tribal areas, people in Chaman do not display weapons, nor is it likely to find drug peddlers or drug addicts on the streets.

    ‘Chaman has its own importance. Although there is an impact on the region because of geo-political situation, Chaman is a channel for supplies for the German and other (Nato) troops into Afghanistan . This shows how peaceful is the town,’ he claimed.

    Former Balochistan sports minister Lt-Col Younis Changezi lamented that although there was huge soccer talent in Chaman, there was hardly facilities for the sport.

    ‘We have given Pakistan football top players from Chaman, but there are meager funds, lack of infrastructure and facilities. I can assure that if given proper attention Chaman and the province can produce top class players.’

    Dr. Markus Litz, the director of the Goethe-Institute Pakistan also spoke while presenting welcome speech.

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