Igor Stimac flies to New Delhi for interview, goes back as Indian men's football team coach

Igor Stimac's first assignment as the Indian men's football team coach will be the King's Cup in Thailand, where India takes on Caribbean nation Curacao in the first match.

Igor Stimac

Former Croatia international and manager Igor Stimac will be appointed as the coach of the Indian men's football team by the AIFF.   -  Getty Images

Croatia's Igor Stimac was the only candidate who flew to New Delhi to attend the interview for the role of the Indian men's football team coach and the move paid off as the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) technical committee has chosen and recommended him for the top job.

It has been learnt that Stimac had requested to be interviewed first because he had an evening flight to catch. Clearly, the Croat was a man on a mission, and its safe to say that he succeeded.

The AIFF received over 250 applications since Stephen Constantine's departure in January and pruned the list down to four candidates – Stimac, Albert Roca, Hakan Ericson, and Lee Min-Sung – who were interviewed on Thursday. With newly-appointed technical director Doru Isac also part of the proceedings, World Cupper Stimac got the nod.

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"The technical committee has chosen Igor Stimac as the Indian football 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," Shyam Thapa, chairman of the technical committee, told Sportstar

Roca was widely touted as the favourite for the post owing to his successful tenure with Bengaluru FC which saw him lead the side to the AFC Cup final in 2016, triumphs at the Federation Cup and Super Cup and a runner-up finish in the 2017-18 Indian Super League season. However, his salary demands, which are believed to be more than the AIFF's budget of $25,000 per month did not work in his favour.

Stimac was in charge of the Croatian national team between 2012 and 2013, a period during which the side shot up to the fourth spot on the world rankings, a best for the nation in over 15 years. Interestingly, Croatia's previous best world ranking was three, and that was in 1998 when Stimac was at the heart of the team's defence. During his stint with the team, the 51-year-old worked with stars such as Luka Modric, Dejan Lovren and Ivan Rakitic to name a few, who would go on to finish as runners-up at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

With a managerial career spanning across 15 years, Stimac has worked with Croatian clubs such as Hajduk Split, Cibalia Vinkovci, FC Zagreb and Zadar, Iranian club Sepahan and Qatari club Al-Shahania. His first and only taste of silverware came when he led his native club of Hajduk Split to the Championship title in 2004-2005.

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As a player, Stimac was a defensive mainstay in the famed red and white chequered jersey and made 53 appearances for the Croatian national team. He was an integral part of the “golden generation” of Croatia that stormed into the semifinals and finished third at the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

That was the best period of his career as he also emerged as a fan favourite during his four seasons with English club Derby County between 1995 and 1999. The then 27-year-old scored on debut and went on to inspire the Rams to a 20-game unbeaten streak. He was eventually voted into the fans’ greatest ever XI.

The Croatian's first task will be the King's Cup in Thailand where India is scheduled to play Curacao on June 5.