India under-17 football coach, Nicolai Adam, is facing a revolt from his players. The junior India boys, who had a terrible outing at the Granatkin Memorial Cup in Moscow, have approached the All India Football Federation, terming Adam to be too strict and overbearing. There are also reports of physical abuse of the players.
There are complaints against the coach and especially his deputy, Etibar Nizami Ibrahimov, of manhandling and verbally abusing the players. The under-17 boys, returning from Moscow, met the AIFF president, Praful Patel, in New Delhi while on transit to Goa. Considering the seriousness of the allegations, the president had asked for an immediate resignation from the coach. However, Adam did not oblige. Instead, he flew with the team to Goa.
The AIFF, caught in a bind, is mulling over its next course of action. Some media reports had said that the coach had been sacked, > but the AIFF has officially denied it . There are talks that former senior national captain Baichung Bhutia will meet the boys to understand their grievances and find a solution.
The Sports Authority of India, which has financially supported the preparations of the under-17 team, is believed to be concerned with the removal of the coach so close to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. The AIFF might consider appointing an observer to oversee the work of the coach and the team, until a resolution is reached.
“The appointment of the coach and technical staff is the prerogative of the executive committee. The AIFF can always call for an executive committee or emergency committee meet and discuss the termination,” a senior AIFF official said.
When contacted, the Sports Minister, Vijay Goel, told Sportstar, “I have not heard anything so far from the AIFF, but every federation is duty bound to inform the Ministry about such things. If we don’t get a report from the AIFF in a day or two, I will personally ask for the files and look into the matter.”
Adam, handpicked by the AIFF, following suggestions from the German FA, was already under pressure following his team’s dismal performances in the AFC U-16 Championships and BRICS Cup in Goa in 2016.
Adam, however, >in an interview to Sportstar in October 2016 , had blamed the Asian Football Confederation’s ‘second cut off rule to avoid age cheating’, which led to the exclusion of five players from the under-16 championship, as one of the major reasons for his team’s poor performance.
The under-17 FIFA World Cup, scheduled to be held in India between October 6 and 28, will give host India its first taste of appearing in a FIFA competition.
The AIFF, banking on the event to give a kickstart to India’s still dormant football revolution, has invested generously on the team, and is hoping for it to make a mark at the biennial FIFA event. The coaching staff has unearthed talents from across the country and the AIFF, on its part has organised long exposure trips to Europe, North America and West Asia to give the team a competitive edge.
The replacement of the coach, eight months ahead of the big event, will surely jeopardise India’s chances of making an impression at the world meet. However, given the nature of the allegation, Adam’s position seems untenable.
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