The Blue Tigers boss spoke about the inclusion of PIOs, progress of ISL, emergence of talented youngsters and more.

Igor Stimac has revealed that a series of changes will be made to the Indian national football team. In an interview with Hindustan Times, the Croatian also talked about several topics such as the Indian Super League, performance of domestic players in the competition and more.

The tactician also expressed the need to make changes not just at the personnel level, but also in terms of the tactical approach on and off the field. He went on to share his thoughts on more important talking points:

Obstacles in the new approach & Indian Super League’s role

Igor Stimac referred to the reasons that caused the failure of the Indian team in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, despite an impressive draw played with Qatar. He said, “I had a couple of camps before our first games, which weren’t enough to prepare the team physically, tactically and psychologically for games like these. But, we made unbelievable progress, if you look at the passing accuracy, ball possession, everything but scoring.

“Scoring is a problem coming out of the ISL structure because no Indian is playing as a centre-forward. I wouldn’t criticize ISL on any issue here. Each club is trying to do its best for its own and to prepare for the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup. But, from my and the national team’s point, we are insisting on 3+1 (including an Asian player) foreign players’ policy.”

The ongoing Indian Super League season

Igor Stimac has been following the current ISL 2020-21 season from Croatia with utmost regularity. He spoke in this regard, saying, “I have watched every single game. Since the ISL started, I am a happy man because I got bored without football, without doing my work and not having certainty about what’s going to happen.

“If you compare the last national team which was playing to now, we are facing some problems and there will be lots of changes,” he said in the context of domestic players.

Potential changes to national team setup

The 53-year-old also talked about a few national team players and their current performance in the ISL. He explained, “Adil Khan is not playing regular football, Michael Soosairaj is injured, Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan are not there at all. Ashique because of injury. He was playing really well and Udanta cannot find himself at the moment.

“Farukh Choudhary changed club (from Jamshedpur FC to Mumbai City FC) and is not playing regular football. Amarjit Singh came from injury; he is still getting a few minutes on the pitch. So, the places are there to be taken. More than anything, I am very happy to see many youngsters emerging,” he further added, hinting that the team could see newcomers.

Praise for Hyderabad FC

The tactician reserved special praise for Hyderabad FC because of the platform they have given to young domestic players this campaign. He expressed, “At the moment, what makes me a very happy man is when I watch Hyderabad play. Because for most of the games in this season, they didn’t use more than three foreign players and look at the football they produce.

“Their two full-backs, they are 19-years-old – (Akash) Mishra and (Asish) Rai (he is 21). They have a centre-back, Chinglensana Singh, who came from Goa, who is good with passing, still needs to improve on some defending. Then you have Mohammad Yasir playing there in the middle, really nice. I enjoy Liston Colaco’s game also,” he further opined.

Heaps of praise for Manvir Singh

Meanwhile, Manvir Singh, who has performed well when representing the Blue Tigers was at the end of a lot of praise from Igor Stimac as well. He said, “Manvir made a good choice changing the club (from FC Goa to ATK Mohun Bagan). In most of the games he has been performing really well. He has scored a few goals which is very good. But, he is also the player with energy who can hold the ball, who can pass and who understands the game.”

Opinion on including PIOs

The debate on whether India should allow PIOs to represent the country has been raging for years. In this context, the head coach laid out his opinion very clearly, saying, “Every country in the football world is using what we call PIOs (Persons of Indian-Origin) who are playing abroad. We need to do everything possible to give them a chance to represent their country.

“The gap between us and the top (Asian) countries is big. I am concentrating on closing this gap (by 2026) and bringing India into top 10 in Asia, so that we get better chances of competing in future World Cup Qualifiers,” Igor Stimac concluded. 

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