Albert Roca's agent blames AIFF, Federation refutes

Albert Roca's agent said the All India Football Federation (AIFF) did not give the Spaniard enough time to attend the Indian men's senior football team coach interview in person.

Albert Roca was among the frontrunners for the Indian senior men's football team coaching job.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

The agent of former Bengaluru FC manager Albert Roca – who was considered as the favourite to take over as the coach of the Indian senior men’s football team – has accused the All India Football Federation (AIFF) of giving his client little time to personally attend the interview conducted by the technical committee. 

The committee, headed by yesteryear India international Shyam Thapa, has recommended the appointment of former Croatia coach Igor Stimac to take over the national team, which is without a coach since the departure of Stephen Constantine in January.

According to Roca’s agent, the AIFF originally intimated the candidates on May 5 that the interview would be held on May 7 before postponing it to May 9 a day later. 

The short notice made it difficult for the candidates to procure visas. It takes a minimum of four days to acquire an Indian e-visa. “Roca didn’t have the option to come to India for the interview because it was impossible to get the visa in such a short space of time. He could have made a better impression if he had appeared in person" Roca's agent, Kuldeep Sharma, told Sportstar.

The charge, however, was refuted by Abhishek Yadav, the national team director. “The technical committee had picked a nine-man shortlist on April 15. A day later, we informed them (shortlisted candidates) that we want to fill the position by May 10,” he said. 

“We again reached out to the final four candidates on May 3 and asked them about their availability. After consultation, the interview date was pushed to May 9. We wanted to finish the interviews quickly because we have an upcoming camp,” said Yadav.

AIFF general secretary Kushal Das supported Yadav’s view and said: “Our technical committee had shortlisted candidates and the national team director spoke to all of them to find out their availability. They were given the option of either a Skype or an in-person interview.”

Only Stimac appeared in person for the interview, while Roca, Hakan Ericson (Sweden) and Lee Min-Sung (South Korea) joined the process through Skype. Stimac’s personal appearance in front of the technical committee in such short notice has led people to cast aspersions on the entire process, with some hinting that the AIFF had perhaps already decided on the appointment before the interview process.

Yadav is of the opinion that the personal appearance of Stimac had no bearing on the outcome. “We wanted a good candidate. The technical committee and technical director (Isac Doru) believed the other candidates were good too; they liked some of the points they made,” he said.

“It wasn't that any factor went against the candidates. We listened to everyone's opinion with an open mind and their feedback on the technical aspects of how to improve the team. The technical committee felt that Stimac was most convincing and had the best plan,” he added.

Sharma also rejected claims that Roca’s salary demand – upwards of USD 25,000 per month – had tilted the balance against him. “We never officially negotiated salary,” he said.

When asked if he was aware of Roca’s salary demand, the AIFF general secretary said: “At no point did we discuss salary with the coaches. We hadn’t set aside a budget. Obviously, it can’t be an exorbitant price. If there was a right candidate, we would have gone for them. It was about the best person.”

Shyam Thapa, chairman of the technical committee, told Sportstar on Thursday that the technical committee has recommended Stimac for the position of the new Indian team coach. “He gave a splendid presentation and his experience speaks volumes. Stimac has an impressive knowledge of Indian football and we found him as the perfect choice."

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