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Englishman Stephen Constantine has been appointed India's football coach for the second time, tasked with lifting the cricket-mad nation from its FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking placing of 171st.
Constantine, 52, who served as India's coach from 2002 to 2005 during which it achieved a best-ever ranking of 109, will supervise both the senior and under-23 football teams, a statement from the All India Football Federation (AIFF) said. "The AIFF confirms the appointment of Stephen Constantine as the head coach of the senior men's national team. He will also be in charge of the India U-23 team," the statement read.
Constantine, who lifted Rwanda to its highest-ever ranking of 68 in his last assignment, is expected to take charge from the first week of February, the statement added. Constantine replaces Dutchman Wim Koevermans, who resigned in October after India's 3-2 home defeat against Palestine in a friendly.
Football's popularity has been growing steadily in the country with the recently concluded Indian Super League (ISL) drawing tens of thousands of supporters in its first edition. Organisers of the 10-week ISL managed to attract big-name stars such as France's Nicolas Anelka and Italy's Alessandro Del Piero, somewhat overshadowing the local talent.
Although India have never appeared at the World Cup finals, FIFA President Blatter has described the country as the game's "sleeping giant".