Stephen Constantine, the head coach of Pakistan’s men’s national football team, expressed his overwhelming emotions after witnessing his team’s historic victory in the World Cup qualifying round. He remarked, “I’ve not seen so many grown men cry in all my life,” capturing the significance of the moment for the nation.
In a thrilling match held at Islamabad’s Jinnah Sports Stadium, Pakistan secured a 1-0 victory over Cambodia, with Harun Hamid scoring the decisive goal in the 67th minute. This win not only marks Pakistan’s first international triumph since 2018 but also ensures their progression to the second round of Asia’s World Cup 2026 qualifying process.
Reflecting on the euphoric atmosphere, Constantine told the BBC, “It is a massive deal; in their 75-year history, it is the first time they’ve qualified for the second stage, they haven’t won since 2018 and it was the first home game for eight-and-a-half years. It has been unbelievably emotional.”
Constantine, who took over the reins of the team in September following a series of 13 consecutive defeats, has only been with the team for a short period. He expressed his joy for the players, the fans, and the overall progress of football in Pakistan.
Having previously managed teams like Nepal, Malawi, Sudan, Rwanda, and India, Constantine is no stranger to challenges. With Pakistan currently ranked 197th in the world, they are set to face formidable opponents like Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Jordan in the upcoming second round of qualifying matches starting in November.
Discussing his future with the team, Constantine mentioned, “The next game is away to Saudi Arabia in November, so welcome to the real world! My current deal finishes in the next three days. They cannot give me a full one-year, two-year term. The PFF (Pakistan Football Federation) will have to come up with some sort of plan. I’m assuming they want me to stay, but we’ll see.”
Pakistan’s football journey has been fraught with challenges, including a suspension from FIFA in 2021 due to “undue third-party interference.” Constantine highlighted the struggles faced by the players, many of whom juggle part-time jobs and football, making this victory even more commendable.