Igor Stimac: We still do not have a season that extends to nine months

India head coach Igor Stimac said that a protracted league with enough playing time for the players is necessary for improvement.

Igor Stimac

India head coach Igor Stimac said that a protracted league with enough playing time for the players is necessary for improvement.   -  AIFF MEDIA

The senior men’s national football team has found a bunch of technically competent players and is now ready to step forward to the next level of competitiveness, feels the head coach Igor Stimac. The Croatian World Cupper made this assessment following India’s triumphant outing in the recent SAFF Championship.

“We can now say that for each position, we have three players with similar qualities. So, we are not afraid of losing anyone because there are enough candidates in each position. We are now in the position to go one step forward, which is playing good football in the third round of Asian Cup qualifiers (in February) and ensuring a berth in the final stage of the qualifying process,” Stimac said in a media conference on Tuesday.

“After two-and-a-half years of developmental process (since his appointment), we can say that we could create a spine for the team with players who have the right technical knowledge and ability,” he added.

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Stimac said the team showed good physical and mental attributes. “What impressed me most were the qualities like togetherness, energy, positive attitude and great mindset. We had very little time to prepare with players coming from the off-season period. Nepal, who deservedly reached the final, got more than two months of preparation, and that reflected in their performance. Despite these difficulties, the lads managed to fight together and showed amazing positivity and energy,” Stimac said.

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Talking about the 37-year-old superstar Sunil Chhetri, Stimac said he judged every player by performance and not by age. “I never look at the age of the players. If I looked at the age, then I would not have allowed the 18-year-olds in the side,” he said.

Stimac said that a protracted league with enough playing time for the players is necessary for improvement. “We still do not have a season that extends to eight or nine months. Hopefully, we soon can get a season like other countries because if we want to get in the top-10 in Asia, we need the quality of competition at par with countries currently occupying the top positions in the rankings,” he said.

“I would refer to China here. It has been spending more than a billion dollars in football development every year for the last six years. They have five million kids in a structured academy system and employ thousands of foreign coaches. They pay millions of dollars to foreign players to come and enhance the football knowledge of home-grown players. Despite the effort, China falls short of making it to the World Cup. We are dreaming of qualifying to the World Cup, but that is not enough as other countries are doing much more in terms of development,” was how Stimac tried to define India’s current position.

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