AIFF has appointed Igor Stimac as the new head coach of the Indian football senior team and hopes to take Indian football to new heights.

Former Indian football team head coach, Stephen Constantine resigned after the AFC Asian Cup in January. The Executive Committee of the All India Football Federation has now appointed Igor Stimac as the head coach of the men’s senior national football team coach on a two-year contract.

Igor Stimac with Luka Modric

Stimac has over 18 years of experience in coaching, structuring, and developing football players in Croatia and internationally. His major achievement was guiding the Croatian football team to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014. During his tenure as the head coach of Croatia, he developed many players and handed national team debuts to Mateo Kovacic, Ante Rebic, Alen Halilovic, Ivan Perisic, Dario Srna, Daniel Subasic and many others. His last assignment was with Al-Shahania Club in Qatar.

Igor Stimac himself was a famous footballer during his time. He was a part of the Croatian football squad which finished third in the FIFA World Cup France 1998. He was also a member of the Croatian football squad which qualified for the quarterfinals of the UEFA European Championship 1996 (Euro) in England. Along with this, he was also a part of the Yugoslavia U-19 National Team which won the FIFA U-20 World Cup Chile 1987.

Igor Stimac as a player

Praful Patel, President of the All India Football Federation said: “Igor is the right candidate to coach the Blue Tigers. I welcome him on board. Indian Football is going through a transition, and I am confident his vast experience will guide us to higher echelons.”
Kushal Das, General Secretary of AIFF added: “His credentials as a coach and experience as a player are sure to add immense value to the players, and the Indian Football ecosystem. The momentum gained needs to be sustained.”

Shyam Thapa, former Indian international player who is a member of the bronze-medal winning squad in the 1970 Asian Games and currently the Chairman of the Technical Committee said: “Mr Stimac’s recommendation was unanimous. All the members of the Technical Committee including the AIFF Technical Director Mr Isac Doru were immensely impressed and convinced about him being best suited for the job. He is a World Cupper and has guided Croatia to the World Cup as a coach. Who else could have been a better candidate? He also impressed us with his extensive research on Indian Football.”

Igor Stimac with the Indian players

All the Indian players are also excited after the appointment of such a high profile coach. All of them are looking forward to work with Igor Stimac and take the Indian football team to new heights. Indian captain Sunil Chhetri said: “I’ve already spoken with the boys from the national team, and we have begun working on our fitness as we will need to switch modes soon. While there is a change in guard at the helm, what doesn’t change is our desire to keep improving. What I am also assuming won’t change is the way all you fans have backed us. Let’s all turn to this new chapter together.”

Pronay Halder, who currently plays for the Indian side ATK said: “The coach brings in a wealth of experience from his playing days as well as managerial career. He has worked with top midfielders such as Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. Personally, I feel I would be able to learn a lot from him and hopefully we’ll be able to get the desired results. I am excited for the King’s Cup. It’s an amazing feeling to play for the national team and with some formidable opponents like Curacao. I feel that it’ll be a good opportunity to gain some valuable experience and improve as a team. Hoping to get the results in our favour under the new coach.”

Vishal Kaith, a young and promising goalkeeper who for FC Pune City, has been called up to the national team. He is looking forward to impress Stimac. He added: “As all of us know that Stimac has managed Croatia and worked with top players in the world, helping them develop individually, I am confident that likewise the Indian contingent will develop further and we’ll be able to get positive results in the upcoming tournaments and qualifiers. I look forward to give my 100% in the national team camp and improve both as a team and individually. With hard work, more confidence and the guidance of the new coach, we’ll be able to get the results in our favour in the upcoming games.

Indian football team

Lalruatthara, a promising defender who plays for Kerala Blasters hopes that he can return to the Indian national team under Igor Stimac. He said: “Leading Croatia to the World Cup shows the Coach’s experience at the International stage. We are lucky to have him manage the Indian National Team side. Hopefully, under him, we will be able to perform well in the upcoming tournaments. While the National team is used to the way it played under the former coach Constantine, I feel players will be looking forward to playing under the new coach and adapt to his style as soon as possible.
Everyone would be really excited to see the National team play after a significant gap. The coach will be taking charge of the National team in his first competitive game in the King’s Cup. I am really excited and look forward to overcoming the challenges that lie ahead and hopefully make it to the squad.”

Igor Stimac will face a number of challenges as the head coach of the Indian football team. He has a few important assignments starting with the King’s Cup in Buriram, Thailand, from June 5-8. India will then host Syria, Tajikistan and North Korea in what is called as an Intercontinental Cup from July 7-17 in Ahmedabad. After that, the all-important World Cup qualifiers will begin from September. For a nation that’s aspiring to play the FIFA World Cup 2026 if not 2022, Stimac really has his task cut out.

Sunil Chhetri

Among all the challenges he faces, the most important one for Stimac is to find the rightful heir of Sunil Chhetri. Indian football is somewhat still reliant on one figure – Indian captain Sunil Chhetri. But Chhetri is already 34 and is not getting any younger. The undisputed leader of the national team may be only around for a couple of years. Stimac’s challenge, therefore, is to find a suitable replacement for Chhetri within the next two years.

Stanley Rozario, Aizawl FC coach said: “I am expecting Stimac to play attacking football. He was a defender during his playing days so he will definitely ensure the Indian defence is well organised. He will likely use his experience to tighten the defence and then rely on counter-attacks.
I got to know that he has seen a lot of the ISL and I-League matches and came prepared with a list of 36 players for his job interview. That shows the interest he has taken up in Indian football, and it’s only good for us that he was given the job. The Indian football fraternity needs to come together as one unit in its support of Stimac. We’ll go by the results of the national team but to get these results, Stimac needs time.”

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