Igor Stimac’s Vision for Indian Football Amidst Controversy
In the midst of controversy surrounding his alleged involvement with an astrologer during the Asian Cup Qualifiers, India’s national football team coach, Igor Stimac, remains resolute in his quest to elevate India into a footballing powerhouse. This controversy has once again cast a shadow over Indian football, leaving questions about Stimac’s intentions and the state of the sport in the country.
**The Astrologer’s Role:**
Reports surfaced that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had enlisted the services of an astrologer, at a cost of ₹16 lakh, to predict the fortunes of the Indian football team. Shockingly, Stimac was allegedly in direct contact with this astrologer, seeking advice on team selection during the Asian Cup Qualifiers.
**Stimac’s Plea to Clubs:**
Amidst this turmoil, Stimac took to social media to appeal to Indian Super League (ISL) clubs, urging them to release players for national team duty. He emphasized the importance of support for the national teams, especially with a busy schedule that includes major tournaments like the AFC U23 qualifiers, Asian Games, World Cup Qualifiers, and the AFC Asian Cup.
However, the response from ISL clubs was mixed. Some clubs were reluctant to release players, citing the need to keep them for the upcoming ISL campaign. This impasse has persisted since August, leading to frustration within the national team management.
**Special Exemption for Asian Games:**
Initially, India’s participation in the Asian Games was in jeopardy due to the Sports Ministry’s selection criteria, which required teams to be ranked in the top eight in Asia. India’s men’s team ranked 18th and the women’s team 11th, falling short of this criteria. However, AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey secured special exemptions, allowing the teams to compete.
**Challenges for India:**
Despite the green light, India faces challenges. The squad for the Asian Games is expected to be relatively inexperienced, primarily drawn from the AFC U23 Asian Cup qualifiers team. The coaching duties might also shift from Stimac to Clifford Miranda. With key players unavailable, India’s chances in China are at risk.
It’s worth noting that Stimac played a significant role in elevating India’s FIFA rankings, reaching the top 100 after a five-year hiatus. His commitment to improving Indian football is evident, despite the recent controversy.
As Indian football grapples with controversy and challenges, Igor Stimac’s determination to transform India into a footballing nation remains unwavering. The situation raises critical questions about the priorities of Indian football and the path forward. Whether Stimac can overcome these obstacles and achieve his dream is a story yet to unfold in Indian football’s evolving narrative.