Igor Stimac should get adequate time as national coach

Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia, former national team coach Armando Colaco and India goalkeeper Subrata Paul weigh in on Igor Stimac’s tenure.

With the Indian national team, Igor Stimac has produced an attractive brand of football while blooding in a few promising youngsters.   -  AP

The two-year reign of Croatian Igor Stimac, one of the most high-profile coaches to manage the Indian men’s national football team, has had mixed results. While the side has won only a solitary game in 12 outings under the former West Ham United defender, Stimac has produced an attractive brand of football while blooding in a few promising youngsters in the team.

Bhaichung Bhutia, the former India captain and the most-known face of Indian football, feels Stimac has done well considering the limited resources and talent at his disposal. “A coach is as good as his players. The team under Igor has played some good football and produced some entertaining matches. Though the results have not always favoured the team, overall it has displayed a good brand of football.”

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“It is always nice to give a lot of debuts, but no one is going to judge the team by that. People will ultimately look at the results,” Bhutia added. “I did not expect the national team to go and play the World Cup with this bunch of players, but the brand of football they have played is good. It is very important now that we build up the side from this point.”

But rebuilding the side is a long-term plan and the national coach alone cannot ensure that, said Bhutia. “Igor cannot produce another Sunil Chhetri. India has not seen a player of his calibre for a long time. As regards the future of the national coach, it is upon the technical committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to decide.”

The former East Bengal and Mohun Bagan striker fees the national federation should be more focused on grooming the players with the right standard of coaching. “Look at Indian Arrows, a team specifically formed by the federation as the nursery of our future Indian team.

“And when you see Indian Arrows finishing at the bottom of the I-League after struggling to win matches, it is an indication of how poor things are with the development process. You cannot blame Igor for this situation. I feel that the AIFF should invest heavily on getting top-grade coaches for its grassroots programme, like the under-13, under-15 or under-17 teams, and put the senior national team under an Indian coach.”

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Bhaichung Bhutia, the former India captain and the most-known face of Indian football, feels Stimac has done well considering the limited resources and talent at his disposal. “A coach is as good as his players. The team under Igor has played some good football and produced some entertaining matches,” he says.   -  Sudhakara Jain

 

“I can recall a statement from Liverpool FC legend and East Bengal coach Robbie Fowler during the Indian Super League where he expressed dismay that a good number of Indian players have not received proper training. It is true that most of the Indian players were not taught about technical and tactical aspects during their formative years. Very few Indian players know about getting into the right position or how to maintain the shape of a formation. You cannot blame the players because they have never gone through this level of training,” Bhutia added.

Armando Colaco, the former Dempo and East Bengal coach who also managed the Indian team in 2011, says a few changes here and there are fine, but the side needs a nucleus of players who will prop up its performance. “During practice matches you can juggle with the team, but during international friendlies you need to have a set team that can put up a proper performance as the name of the country is at stake,” he said. “Here comes the question of development and I do not see the federation doing anything concrete about it. In the last couple of years, I have not found anything of development happening with the national team.”

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“I have always...worked for bettering the basics of our footballers. It should start at the grassroots level. A good many of our players are technically deficient as they have not got adequate coaching at the right age. India has a great tradition in football where we had numerous players who could be compared to the best in the continent. If we are looking at the foreigners for development, then bring in players and coaches who have a fair level of excellence. Everyone is quick to point out the deficiencies plaguing Indian football, but no one is seriously working for its development,” he added.

Colaco also highlighted the treatment of Indian coaches vis-a-vis their foreign counterparts. “...there is little respect for Indian coaches. If the Indian team had lost 6-0 (as it did against the United Arab Emirates on March 29) under an Indian coach, he would have been bombarded with criticism. Every time a foreign coach comes, he says India has got a lot of talent, but how many of them can truly help in the development? The last name I can recall who did really help in the development of Indian football was Rustam Akramov in the mid-90s.” [During Colaco’s tenure as the national coach, India lost 0-3 and then drew 2-2 against the UAE while playing the World Cup qualifiers in 2011.]

“Even the ISL clubs are not doing enough for development. How many of them have Indian coaches? Look at the way Khalid Jamil helped NorthEast United to the semifinals (of the 2020-21 ISL season). He proved that Indian coaches are equally competent. Sadly, there is no consistency in the thought process of our administrators. Why was Stephen Constantine not given an extension after the Asian Cup in 2019? Constantine had a long experience of coaching in India and he was preparing the side well. The frequent changing of coaches doesn’t go well with the players,” he added.

Armando Colaco, the former Dempo and East Bengal coach who also managed the Indian team in 2011, says a few changes here and there are fine, but the side needs a nucleus of players who will prop up its performance. “During practice matches you can juggle with the team, but during international friendlies you need to have a set team that can put up a proper performance as the name of the country is at stake,” he says.   -  R. V. Moorthy

 

However, India and East Bengal goalkeeper Subrata Paul feels Indians football is passing through a transition and that the national coach should get adequate time to prepare his side. “We now have a new generation of players who are looking to step in the shoes of the previous generation led by none other than the iconic Bhaichung Bhutia. I think Igor Stimac also needs time to bring together a squad that will settle down to his coaching philosophy. We need to show perseverance with Igor too. Look, we have earned an AFC Champions League berth only after claiming it for more than six seasons of the ISL,” he said.

“The Indian team has only played 12 matches in the last two years where there has been a large part of inactivity because of the pandemic. I think Igor has not got enough time to work with the squad and you cannot judge a coach based on one match. I feel Igor has got good credentials as a coach and what he has been trying with the team is quite appreciable. It is very difficult to analyse a coach until and unless you work under him and understand his philosophy of coaching. The loss against the UAE may hurt a lot of fans, but you have to see that the UAE side has grown as a team over a period of time. They have much developed infrastructure and have also been grooming the players under good coaches for a long time,” he added.

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“There are competent people in the AIFF who will take a decision on Igor after assessing what plans he has for the future. I feel that two years is not a sufficient time for a coach to prepare a side. Look at Joachim Loew, who has been there with Germany for more than a decade. A long-term plan and vision are necessary for development. Even someone like (Jose) Mourinho cannot simply come and immediately see India qualifying for the World Cup. Igor definitely has the right credentials, which got him the job two years ago. As I have not been a part of the Indian team under his coaching, it is not possible for me to judge him as a coach. Going by his CV and the wealth of coaching experience, I feel his tenure should be extended.”