India men’s national football team coach Igor Stimac called for better planning of the Indian Super League, stating that the uncertainty surrounding the All India Football Federation is not helping the national team.
Last week India qualified for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup finals by winning all three qualifiers. Stimacs India rounded off their qualifiers with an elegant 4-0 win over group rivals Hong Kong. The 2023 edition is India’s fifth appearance overall at the continental championship (1964, 1984, 2011, 2019, 2023) and the country’s first consecutive final appearance.
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Stimac’s current contract expires in September 2022, but he’s hoping to extend his stay beyond his current three years.
During an impromptu press conference over the weekend, Stimac spoke about the chaotic state of affairs at the AIFF, the planning of the ISL and his future ahead of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
For planning ISL
Lamenting the lack of game time for players in a year, Stimac stated that the Indian football calendar should not be dependent on the IPL.
“It is clear that the season needs to be longer and the players need more games. They (players) had to be treated and cared for for 10-11 months and these 6-8 weeks vacation is more than enough. We still have more things to sort out in terms of the calendar,” he said.
“It has to be much more (a) challenge for the players than comfort. To go higher as a national team, we need players who give their best every day. We can’t have such a short league if there aren’t enough clubs to keep up. And we need to be faster (on these changes).
“Regarding the football calendar, which is still being adjusted in terms of IPL and broadcast, things need to be clarified. This has to stop if we want to make football great in India. The football calendar shouldn’t depend on other things,” Stimac said.
BCCI last week sold the IPL’s broadcast rights for the 2023-27 cycle for a whopping 48,390 crore. Star India renewed its television contract by acquiring Package A for Rs 23,575 crores while Viacom18 bagged exclusive digital rights in the subcontinent for Rs 23,758 crores. Disney-owned Star India also owns the broadcasting rights to ISL and the India national soccer team.
The 54-year-old also claimed ISL clubs must also do their part in releasing players to allow them to attend longer national camps.
“ISL will not make India fall in love with Indian football. Only the national team will do that,” he added.
On the mess at AIFF
Stimac explained that the uncertain future surrounding the AIFF and a possible FIFA ban does not bode well for the national team’s preparations.
The Supreme Court in May appointed an administrative committee to handle the day-to-day affairs of the AIFF, ending former boss Praful Patel’s 13-year stint at the helm of Indian football.
“We could have problems if these elections don’t start soon. We have to organize ourselves. This Council (CoA) cannot deal with football matters, national team requirements and other selection matters. Time flies and we are not preparing for what lies ahead,” Stimac said.
Without naming names, Stimac accused Indian football players of putting their “own projects” before the health of the national team.
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“When I took the job, I expected a very different situation. I expected everyone to be committed and willing to help the national team rise. But some of the parties were focused on their own projects, which was surprising, some of them didn’t understand what that means and how long it takes for the national team to be promoted,” he said.
to his contract situation
Stimac’s contract is obviously the hottest topic right now.
“My contract expires in September and it was an agreement with AIFF if we would achieve our goals (Asian Cup qualifiers). A council member said there was no rush as the deal runs until September but he needs to understand that the football season is different from the normal calendar. Coaches will be hired in June or July and they should think about it,” Stimac said.
“I am very committed to AIFF. We’ve done three years of work, qualified for the Asian Cup and I would love to take over this team and show everyone that India can do better,” he added.
The Croatian has also defended against allegations that he is only focused on his contract, claiming he took the Indian job for a lower salary than he normally asks. Stimac has also recently received the backing of captain Sunil Chhetri, who described the Croatian as “one of the best coaches” he has played under.
“He (Stimac) is one of the best managers we have ever played under. The boys are very comfortable. He is very approachable, talks to everyone, treats everyone well. He played at the highest level, so he understands the psyche of the players. He understands the dressing room and the boys, knows exactly what to say and what not to say, how to encourage them… that’s something he’s really good at,” Chhetri had said.
Read more about this story in the Indian Express and Sportstar.