Igor Stimac, the newly-appointed coach of the Indian men’s football team, called the men in blue ‘sleeping giant’ of the sport but said that he was happy with their progress. The Croatian also stressed on the communication between the clubs and the federation as a crucial element, which can aid the growth of the sport in India.
Addressing his first press conference in New Delhi since his appointment, Stimac said, “It’s quite good for the beginning and first few days working with them (team). I took this chance because I see India as a sleeping giant in football. I see good opportunities for youngsters who are coming and knocking on the door.”
The former Croatia player and coach also mentioned that apart from building and working with the senior team, he’ll have an extensive discussion with various club managers on a weekly or monthly basis and will work on the improvement of the quality of the sport.
“My job will not only be selecting and working with players of the senior team. We also need to do, going and visiting the clubs, talking to club managers, organising communication between us on a weekly or monthly basis, talking about how to improve football in India,” the 51-year-old added.
When asked about how different will his approach be from the previous coach, the Croatian said that ‘Stephen Contastine opted more of a defensive setup.’ He, however, felt that this setup was not helpful when the team was trailing, and he would look to come up with ways to help his players switch from one formation to another.
“I appreciate all Constantine has done for the Indian team. I’ve seen the games Contastine have played. He opted for more defensive football. His style was adopted to players he had. I’ll do my best to have more options, to learn how we can transform into different systems. I won’t promise good things will happen overnight. With little luck, hard work, we’ll be ok,” Stimac said.
Isac Doru, the technical director of the team who was also present at the event, said the team needs to develop a national game model, which synchronises both attacking and defensive gameplay.
“We need to build national game model, it’s not more attacking or more defending. Our national game concept will be synchronised. Synchronised is part of modern football. When we defend we think about attack and when we attack we think about defending, that is synchrosied,” Doru explained.
Speaking on the friction between the I-League and the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the Croatian said that any conflict is not helpful for the progress of the sport.
He also spoke on the two major leagues played in India, the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League. Comparing both the leagues, Stimac said despite being more competitive in nature, ISL has a long way to go before they can match the tradition of I-League.
“As many leagues we have, its better for national football. ISL is a league mostly privatised, with private owners and all the clubs investing money. I-League has been there for more years and has something which ISL cannot buy. It’s tradition, you cannot buy tradition. So working on those things on how it can be matched together, I-League clubs need to speed up in their progression and ISL to get a part of the tradition. I’m happy because in ISL is most of the competitive playing stuff at the moment and in I-League most of the young players are developing,” Stimac said.
India, who are currently ranked 101, will head to Thailand to participate in the upcoming edition of King’s Cup, starting from June 5. Along with hosts Thailand, Vietnam, Curacao are the other two nations that will participate in the tournament.