The AIFF are formally expected to announce the appointment of former Croatian player and manager Igor Stimac as the new head coach of the Indian National Football Team on Saturday.
As a player, the defender represented Croatia in the FIFA 1998 World Cup where Croatia finished third in the competition. At club level, he represented English clubs Derby County and West Ham United.
Stimac took over the reins of the Croatian National Team in 2012 replacing Slaven Bilić. While the Croatian team managed to pick up a few points in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, their form soon tailed off and Stimac had to resign from the post.
In fact, he had become hugely unpopular in Croatia during his stint and was criticized for his team’s over-reliance on set pieces and for playing pragmatic football with a squad possessing technical ability. A poll conducted by the popular domestic newspaper 24sata saw 98% of voters in favour of his sacking.
Notably, Stimac handed out debuts to Mateo Kovačić and Alen Halilović during his stint as national coach.
The 51-year-old was in contention for the top Indian football job alongside former Bengaluru FC’s Spanish coach Albert Roca, South Korean World Cup star Lee Min-sung and the Swedish youth coach Håkan Ericson. Stamic was the only candidate who was present in-person for the interview while the rest were interviewed via Skype.
The AIFF technical committee headed by former Indian international Shyam Thapa held discussions with the prospects in presence of the newly-appointed technical director of Indian football, Doru Isac.
We have recommended Igor Stimac’s name to the All India Football Federation Executive Committee after interviewing all the four candidates. We found him as the best suited to become India coach.Shyam Thapa, Chairman, AIFF Technical Committee
The AIFF’s executive committee is expected to ratify the decision made by the technical committee.
Unconfirmed reports suggest although Stimac’s recent record was a worry for the technical committee, the Croatian’s comprehensive research into Indian players turned the tide in his favour. He presented a list of 36 players who he would select if appointed and had more than a cursory knowledge of the leagues in India (Read I-League).
There are also contrarian reports that Igor edged out the favourite Albert Roca due to the latter’s financial demands.
But an AIFF official indicated that Roca lacked the relevant experience of managing a national team.
He has been successful at a club level but does not have the experience of coaching a national team. Also, at the club level, there was a certain degree of comfort and he had better resources.
But with the national team, it’s a lot more chaotic and the conditions at times are adverse. We asked him if would be able to cope with those challenges and his answer was very generic.AIFF official
The new coach’s first engagement with the Indian National Team will be the King’s Cup tournament in Thailand. Hosts Thailand, Curacao and Vietnam are the participating teams. India will take on 82nd ranked Curacao on the 5th of June.