Indian footballers should play 50 games a year, not 20: Igor Stimac

The coach made an honest assessment of the present condition of the sport and professed wholesome changes in many spheres which are essential for the desired transformation.

This will be Igor Stimac's second tournament as the Indian coach after the King's Cup, wherein India finished third, winning against Thailand in the third-place playoff.   -  AIFF Media

Appearing before the national media for the second time after his appointment as the head coach of the Indian national team, Igor Stimac laid out his preferences in getting Indian football to the level on the world map.

The coach made an honest assessment of the present condition of the sport and professed wholesome changes in many spheres which are essential for the desired transformation.

The man who took his native side Croatia to the World Cup in Brazil (2014) said India can always wish for a beautiful surprise by working diligently on its World Cup qualification dream

Q: You have inherited a side that is yet to make it big even in the continental level. What changes would you like to bring in realise the dream?

A: It is a long process. It is not only about coach and the players. It is about changing a few things about AIFF, ISL and I-League. It is about starting work with the new kids, it is about improving infrastructure. It is also about not giving long breaks in the calendar as much it is about changing the number of games in a year.

You cannot dream of becoming a strong force if are playing 20 games a year. The number should a minimum of 50 for a player to realise his optimum. Like this there are many points which should be discussed, changed and we have all have to start working on them. There are certain differences, I know, but the development of football should be treated above all to help the national team do well.

Q: Like you predecessor Stephen Constantine had insisted before, should India do well in allowing PIOs in the side?

A: Allowing PIO is one point where we can improve. If ever country in the world is allowing the players of its origin to come and play, why can’t we do that? That will help us in attaining a level  of performance.

I have received a list of at least seven players who are playing abroad and whose parents are Indians and the players are looking to play for India. I would not like to get into politics but I feel that we should take help from all the sides which will contribute in our growth in football.

READ | Indian football team heads into Intercontinental Cup with World Cup qualifiers in mind

Q: How has been Indian’s team preparation ahead of the tournament?

A: The training was hard and we had 17 training sessions in 10 days in Mumbai and I am proud of the team in the way they have executed the working plan in becoming the force in Asia once again. This new Indian team deserves a lot of support. I would like people to come and see what we do on the pitch. I am not thinking about defending the title. It is more important to us get together certain things in our performance that will help us in doing well in the (FIFA World Cup 2022) qualifiers.

We are now focused on doing well in the qualifiers and will not at anytime put pressure on my players about results in this tournament. I would rather watch how my players are progressing on certain points and would like to see how  they are reacting for the second goal and winning it, how they are playing short passes and how well are they moving on the ground. Of course our objective is to win the Cup again, please don’t get me wrong.

Q: We have seen people putting dates on India’s qualification to the main stage of the FIFA World Cup. How optimistic are you about it?

A: Football is so beautiful that it can surprise all of us. I wish we can become one of the nice surprises in the upcoming qualifiers. But I will not make promises. I will do my best on a daily basis by talking to my players, working with them, teaching them and making changes where required so that they can improve and advance their game.

We do not have much time but we will try to use it wisely. As you can see the introduction of so many young players in the team and giving them chance in Kings Cup in Thailand is a proof that we are investing in the future of India.

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Q: You have been making some changes in the side apparently looking to find a side that will fit into your philosophy and style. How has it progressed?

A: Before coming here I did my own analysis of Mr. Stephen’s (Constantine) good results with the team and the unhappiness in the media and the supporters about the style of play. We play football for supporters and we play football for you (media). We have to make you all happy in the way we play.

Even if the result suffers we are going to play in a way that will make all happy for it is what matters to us in the end. So, by getting so many young players in the side we are trying to change the style of the game. It is a slow process and will take time but when I see how exited our players are about learning I think we can achieve this.