Igor Stimac, the head coach of the Indian men’s national football team, quashed all rumours about him consulting an astrologer for team selection (for some international games 2022), following India’s elimination from the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou.
“Of course, it’s not true. I rely on my work, my knowledge and seeing what the players do on the pitch. In recent times, (some) people in India are looking to discredit my work,” he said.
Several media reports before the Asian Games had alleged that Stimac’s process of team selection involved consultation with an astrologer for picking a side before the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, last year.
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But the FIFA World Cup 1998 bronze medallist reassured that there was no truth in those allegations. “I am trying to stay as far away as possible from all of that,” he said, “It’s a disgrace what they are trying to do to us.”
The Croat, who has been the head coach of the men’s senior side since 2019, has won the SAFF Championship twice, the Intercontinental Cup and the Tri-Nations Series once each, with the Blue Tigers.
In October 2022, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) extended Stimac’s contract until the end of the Asian Cup 2024 - a tournament he had hinted to be his last assignment in charge of the Indian team.
However, after the Asian Games match – India was eliminated by Saudi Arabia in the round of 16 in its first knockout match in 13 years – Stimac did not reveal his intentions about a contract extension.
“I will decide in the next 48 hours sitting down with the right people. They know what I’m looking for. It’s not about money,” he said.
“It’s about whether are we capable of providing time for the national team to be together and work together. If we want to go higher, I need time to work with my players. I cannot do it without time provided to work with them.”
The Indian men’s team for the Asian Games, with Stimac as head coach, underwent several changes after several Indian Super League (ISL) clubs refused to release players for the tournament. Ultimately, a second-string side, with Sunil Chhetri, Sandesh Jhingan and Chinglensana Singh as the only veterans, was finalised for the Games in Hangzhou.
“You know that I am committed to Indian football. I spent four and half years, trying to convince people about what needs to be done. We need to work as a unit, as a team,” Stimac added.
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