On the day India’s squad for this year’s under-17 World Cup resumed its training in Goa, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) officially parted ways with its chief coach Nicolai Adam.
It put to rest a fortnight-long saga which has disrupted the team’s preparations for the biggest football tournament to be played on Indian soil.
The uncertainty, though, does not end here. The team began its camp under interim coach and outgoing technical director of the AIFF Scot O’Donnell on Tuesday. However, AIFF sources said O’Donnell will be returning to Australia later this week after his notice period ends.
With assistant coach Etibar Ibrahimov also set to be sacked, the former India senior team coach Savio Madeira will be in charge until Adam’s successor is identified. The AIFF is likely to advertise for the new coach on Wednesday and the hunt is likely to take at least two weeks.
In a statement, the AIFF said Adam and them ‘parted ways with mutual consent’ without elaborating further. Adam, sources said, was paid approximately Rs 40 lakh as compensation, which amounted to four-and-a-half months of his salary.
Adam was appointed as the coach two years ago on the recommendation of the German Football Federation.
Last month, though, 21 players from the team submitted a letter to AIFF president Praful Patel, in which they alleged that the former Azerbaijan under-17 coach physically abused them. The players accused Adam and Ibrahimov of beating them and using foul language while firmly stating that they would not continue playing under him. The AIFF immediately launched an investigation but has not made the findings public as a part of its arrangement with Adam. The two parties have also agreed that they will not talk publicly about players’ complaint to the AIFF.
Since being appointed as the coach in early 2015, the AIFF has spent close to Rs 8 crore on the team’s preparations for the World Cup, which begins on October 6. A few senior AIFF officials were unhappy with the team’s performance under him, saying there was little improvement.
Under Adam, the team played 26 matches (friendlies and under-16 internationals). They won only four, drew three and lost 19.
India’s opponents comprised some of the world’s, and Asia’s, top teams age-group like Brazil, Uruguay, South Korea and Iran apart from a few American and Brazilian clubs. He has been credited with improving the team’s fitness and instilling discipline and structure in the playing group.
“His biggest contribution was that the team constantly played big teams, which has given them a lot confidence. They know where they stand in the world and how much they need to improve,” a AIFF official said.
But with Adam gone, India’s preparation is also likely to be hit. The team was scheduled to travel to South Africa for training camp on February 15 followed by exposure trips to Germany, Namibia and USA. All those plans have been put on hold until the new coach is appointed.
“We will have to plan as per the new coach’s requirements and not thrust out of Nicolai’s ideas on him. So as of now, the team will continue to train in Goa and other exposure trips will be put on hold,” the official added.
AIFF secretary general Kushal Das said they have already initiated the process of finding the new coach but did not divulge further details.