World football barely noticed Pakistan’s 1-0 win over Cambodia in a FIFA World Cup qualifier this week, but Pakistan manager Stephen Constantine said he had never seen so many adult men cry.
After a scoreless first leg in Phnom Penh, Pakistan advanced to the next round of Asia’s World Cup 2026 qualifiers thanks to a goal scored by Harun Hamid in the 67th minute of the second leg.
Pakistan’s triumph ignited celebrations at the Jinnah Sports Stadium in Islamabad because it was the country’s first international victory since 2018.
With a roster made up of players from both the domestic and international rosters, including some who had not played in a competitive match in months, Englishman Constantine had only taken over in late September and was faced with stopping a 13-match losing streak.
The 61-year-old Constantine, whose coaching career includes stints in charge of Nepal, Malawi, Sudan, Rwanda, and India, told the BBC, “It is an unbelievable atmosphere here, I’ve not seen so many grown men cry in my life.”
It’s a huge thing since it’s the first time in the team’s 75-year existence that they’ve advanced to the next round, they haven’t won since 2018, and it was the first home game in over nine years. This has been an extremely heartbreaking time.
I haven’t even been here for four weeks yet. I’m just happy for Pakistan and its football team and fans.
In Pakistan, cricket vastly outnumbers football, which is considered a minor sport at best.
Pakistan, ranked 197th in the world, was banned by FIFA for 15 months in April 2021 owing to “undue third party interference.” This was Pakistan’s second ban in four years.
The fact that half of our players also have part-time jobs makes our two-goal victory all the more remarkable. It’s been months since some of them have played,” Constantine added.
In the second round, which begins in November, Pakistan will play against Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Jordan; however, Constantine is only in charge on an interim basis.
In November, when we play again, we’ll be on the road in Saudi Arabia; welcome to the real world! His statement was something like, “My current deal expires in the next three days.”
There’s no way they’d give me a full year or two in office. The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) will need to devise a strategy. We’ll see if they really want me to stay, but I’m guessing they do.