Stimac accuses AIFF, Kalyan Chaubey for hampering India’s Asian Games and Asian Cup preparation

Igor Stimac, who was sacked as the Indian football team coach on Monday, criticised the AIFF over the running of the sport in the country.

Published : Jun 21, 2024 16:09 IST , CHENNAI - 7 MINS READ

Former India football team head coach Igor Stimac.
Former India football team head coach Igor Stimac. | Photo Credit: AFP

Former India football team head coach Igor Stimac. | Photo Credit: AFP

Former India football team head coach Igor Stimac accused the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for playing its part in the poor results during the Asian Games and the Asian Cup.

India was defeated by a U-24 Saudi Arabia team in the Asian Games round of 16 in September last year and exited the Asian Cup in the group stages without scoring a point or a goal earlier this year.

The AIFF terminated Stimac’s contract on Monday after recent poor results led to India’s exit from the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers in the second round.

On Friday, Stimac blamed the AIFF for organising the King’s Cup and the Merdeka Cup in September to add to a cramped calendar without consulting him, which hampered the team’s preparation for the Asian Games and Asian Cup.

“Some things happened, which were not coordinated and appreciated. Most importantly, I am speaking about Kalyan Chaubey and his people in the AIFF Football House to arrange matches without meeting or consulting with me. They didn’t take my opinion, which was a clear sign of the breach of the contract. I couldn’t do anything about it. These games were coming in March, May and June, which ended in July with our team winning three tournaments. I knew then that things had to be different and tell them that things had to change.

“After the SAFF final in Bengaluru, I asked for an urgent meeting and that Chaubey and vice president [NA Harris] had attended. It was clear what the team could achieve and do. Never mind higher or lower-ranked opponents, we played a beautiful game. I told them what would happen if things didn’t turn around. They were aware that a full year of suffering was ahead of us if it didn’t happen. I told them I won’t be the coach, if they don’t change things radically.

“I spoke with Martin Bain [FSDL CEO], and we agreed that it’s possible for us to agree on a mutual calendar where both parties were satisfied [national team and the ISL]. I offered them to give up October and November FIFA windows to have a good camp for the Asian games and then have a four week camp prior to the Asian Cup. But they [AIFF] arranged games without consulting me, they accepted the King’s Cup and Merdeka Cup tournaments. So FSDL couldn’t do anything for our team. I was very angry at that time,” said the 56-year-old.

Stimac also criticised the AIFF chief Kalyan Chaubey, stating the country’s football is “imprisoned” and will only improve if the incumbent stepped down from his role.

READ | Stimac shown the door as snooze button is hit on Indian football

“The sooner Kalyan Chaubey leaves, the better it will be for Indian football.. The president of the AIFF gets pictures clicked with people in important positions just for social media attention. He is now on a spree giving bytes to several influencers.

“I am not surprised about parting ways. Most senior players knew I had decided to leave even if we had qualified for the third round. It was impossible for me to go on without proper support, listening to lies and people who cared about only private interests,” said the Croatian, who was appointed in May 2019.

Stimac stated that the AIFF rushed to sack him despite requesting it to hold off any decision regarding his contract.

“Once the game in Qatar finished, I had decided that I would leave whether we qualified or not. The very first day after the game I got a call from Satyanarayan [AIFF acting general secretary], asking me to accept the Intercontinental Cup in July. It told me how low the football knowledge these people had. They don’t have a clue about running the Football House, they just care about power and how to remain there. 

“It amazed me that this was at a time when I should give a report to the Technical Committee about the way forward.  He then got calls from the higher up and then he asked me if it would be okay for me to take three months’ salary as compensation and leave the position. I told him no it wouldn’t be okay, but I will give you good reasons.

“I told him there was no rush because there is no India game coming up. I am negotiating with two parties for a potential job so by probably by July I would have accepted one of those jobs so you wouldn’t have to pay more than one month’s salary. So just be patient and let me agree to the terms with my new company, then we could have split ways. I told him, that if you wanted me to do it earlier, then someone else has to accept that there are other parties involved in sharing the disappointment [failed qualification bid].

“The next day, I received the termination email and I couldn’t believe it. Half a day after telling them to not be influenced by social media pressure or any kind, they decide to terminate a contract which cannot be terminated by their side. They will have to pay full amount once the charges are pressed at the FIFA court. And I was hurt once again and that it shouldn’t have happened,” said Stimac.

AIFF responded saying it had made note of Stimac’s statements. “It has come to our attention that former India men’s team head coach Mr. Igor Stimac has made certain remarks in the media pertaining to functioning of the All India Football Federation and some of its senior officials. The AIFF will issue a statement in this regards in the next 48 hours,” the federation said in an official statement.

READ | Who after Igor Stimac? A case for why Indian coaches must be prioritised

Stimac also said that he underwent a surgery to his heart before the Asian Cup due to stress-related illness.

“After I told them that the World Cup Qualifiers were more important than the Asian Cup, I received a final warning from the AIFF, but while always stating that they fully supported me and the team. But it was all just words and nothing besides that. When I received the final warning on December 2, I ended up in the hospital. I was disturbed with everything going on; stressed by the obvious problems. I had an immediate surgery on my heart. I wasn’t ready to speak to anyone or find excuses. I was ready to put myself on the line to prepare my team for the Asian Cup to give the best shot. Although I am not Indian, I am proud of how we played,” he said.

Stimac also took aim at IM Vijayan, the chairperson of the AIFF technical committee.

“IM Vijayan was a fantastic player, but he’s not the personality to be representing the technical committee. A long time ago, I told president Kalyan (Chaubey) that each country had one of the technical committee members who should be with the team witnessing the work we do, what kind of work we (coaches) provide to the players and how we operate as a team.

“You’d think they did it, they’d sent someone? I told them a member of the technical committee needed to join the team, and someone from AIFF needs to be with the team all the time, but nobody was there. They never sent anyone. I asked my report to be sent to them, otherwise it’s just written words nobody witnessed. Obviously, they weren’t interested in coming and being with the team. What to say? So disappointing,” he said.

(With inputs from Rajdeep Saha)

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