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Indian Coach Igor Stimac and AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey Reportedly Not on Speaking Terms as Tensions Rise

The Indian football team concluded their AFC Asian Cup 2023 campaign in Qatar on Tuesday, experiencing three defeats and failing to score any goals. In the final group-stage match, they suffered a 1-0 loss to Syria. Led by Sunil Chhetri, the team faced defeats against Australia, Uzbekistan, and Syria, conceding a total of six goals while unable to find the net themselves. The disappointing performance in the continental tournament has raised questions about the position of Indian head coach Igor Stimac, with fans expressing their concerns on social media and calling for his resignation. Amidst various rumors and speculations, it appears that the atmosphere within the Indian camp is not currently favorable.

Indian Football Team Coach Igor Stimac Image Credits Twitter 1 Indian Coach Igor Stimac and AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey Reportedly Not on Speaking Terms as Tensions Rise
Indian Football Team Coach Igor Stimac, Image Credits- Twitter

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Strained Relations and Absence: Inside the AIFF’s Internal Struggles and Igor Stimac’s Challenging Tenure

According to information obtained from a source closely associated with the AIFF, it has been revealed that there is a lack of communication between Indian head coach Igor Stimac and AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey. This strained relationship reportedly dates back to the SAFF Championship last year. The source further disclosed that the president did not engage with the players before the Asian Cup. Additionally, it was asserted that the AIFF President was not in favor of retaining Igor Stimac, while other members of the organization supported the Croatian coach, ultimately leading to his contract extension until 2026.

Despite being the premier competition for the Indian men’s national team, AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey was notably absent during the tournament in Qatar, Doha. In the opening game against World Cuppers Australia, the team exhibited some fighting spirit, but the subsequent lackluster performances in the next two games were disappointing for the fans. Although a significant number of spectators attended the Indian games in Qatar, the team couldn’t deliver a performance that justified their support. Looking ahead, the national team’s next challenge is to perform well against Afghanistan in the World Cup Qualifiers round two to keep their hopes alive for the FIFA World Cup 2026.

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AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey Image Credits X Twitter Indian Coach Igor Stimac and AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey Reportedly Not on Speaking Terms as Tensions Rise
AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey, Image Credits- X (Twitter)

India’s dismal performance at the Asian Cup, marked by zero points, zero goals, and conceding six in three games, has stirred discontent among the AIFF leadership. Despite his nationalistic stance on social media, Igor Stimac’s reluctance to shoulder responsibility for the team’s poor showing has irked the AIFF brass. The upcoming March 2024 meetings with Afghanistan in the second round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers are now viewed as a crucial juncture for the beleaguered All India Football Federation to make a decision regarding the future of the senior national coach – whether he should continue or step down.

However, the current situation is deemed too precarious to make hasty and sweeping changes.

India’s Football Landscape amidst Warning, Strained Relations, and High Stakes Qualifiers

An AIFF official acknowledged the alarming nature of India’s poor performance in the Asian Cup, stating, “The March World Cup qualifying games could be the catalyst for us. But then, we were banking on the same thing against Syria too in the Asian Cup. See how that turned out,” highlighting the uncertainty surrounding the team’s consistency.

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Despite the setback in the Asian Cup, India is seen as having a favorable chance to advance to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers. The team is expected to perform well against Afghanistan in the games on Mar 21 (away) and Mar 26 (home) and is optimistic about their prospects when hosting Kuwait on June 6, followed by a challenging encounter against Qatar away on June 11. Earlier expectations were that the association and Igor Stimac would part ways amicably, with third-round qualification serving as a positive note on Stimac’s resume. However, the recent disappointment in Qatar has shifted the focus to the March ties and raised questions about Stimac’s future.

Coach Igor Stimac at the Pre match Press Conference ahead of their opening match against Australia Image Credits Twitter Indian Coach Igor Stimac and AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey Reportedly Not on Speaking Terms as Tensions Rise
Coach Igor Stimac, Image Credits- Twitter

Despite receiving a two-year extension in August last year, there are indications that the relationship between India and Stimac may have reached its conclusion. The coach’s conflicts with the inflexible ISL over player availability and preparation camp time might have strained the partnership. Notably, while India was making a meek exit from the Asian Cup, a section of the Croatian media reported that Stimac was being considered as the favorite for the Dinamo Zagreb job in Croatia.

Sources have revealed that, subsequent to his September show-cause, Igor Stimac received a strong written warning from the AIFF in November. The warning explicitly instructed him not to make any comments against Indian football, the AIFF, or the Sports Ministry on social media or any public platform without prior approval. This precaution was taken after Stimac had publicly stated in November that he considered the World Cup qualifiers more significant than the Asian Cup, emphasizing his priorities.

The AIFF official expressed discomfort, mentioning, “It became very uncomfortable for us. The ministry even began inquiring about our intentions, our plans, and vision. After all, we receive funds from the ministry.”

Probing Trevor Sinclair’s Hasty Inclusion, Financial Decisions, and the AIFF’s Response

The unexpected and unexplained appointment of Trevor Sinclair, a former England international with limited coaching experience, just days before the Asian Cup has added to the complexities surrounding the Indian football team. Despite the existence of a well-established Technical Committee responsible for approving such appointments, there is a lack of clarity within the AIFF regarding Sinclair’s last-minute inclusion. His purported role as a set-piece specialist raises questions, and the decision to bring in Stimac’s former West Ham teammate reportedly cost $10,000 for his services during the Asian Cup..

Trevor Sinclair Image Credits AIFF Official Website Indian Coach Igor Stimac and AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey Reportedly Not on Speaking Terms as Tensions Rise
Trevor Sinclair, Image Credits- AIFF Official Website

The specific role Trevor Sinclair played in the Asian Cup remains unclear, and despite being approved by the Finance Committee, there is a lack of definition regarding his responsibilities. An official confirmed that Sinclair’s appointment was sanctioned solely for the duration of the Asian Cup. An AIFF insider revealed the surprising decision, stating, “We let him have his way this time because he cribs about everything,” indicating that Stimac played a significant role in Sinclair’s inclusion.

Regardless of the ambiguity surrounding his role, Sinclair has reportedly earned a substantial fee of $10,000 for overseeing just three games during the Asian Cup, raising questions about the justification for such an expenditure given the limited duration of his involvement.

The AIFF official stated, “We will discuss the Sinclair appointment, along with the coach’s report.” The coaching staff is scheduled to be in the capital on Thursday for visa-related matters, and a review session with the Technical Committee regarding the Asian Cup performance is anticipated. The official mentioned, “We will await Stimac’s report. President Kalyan Chaubey will be in the Capital by Thursday; he will be present too.”

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