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I had heart surgery, but I put myself on the line & organized camp for Asian Cup, says Igor Stimac

Published at :June 25, 2024 at 8:28 PM
Modified at :June 25, 2024 at 8:28 PM
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Gourav Samal

Igor Stimac also mentioned the ignorance of AIFF to his calls.

The controversies surrounding Indian football have become a never-ending affair. Irrespective of India’s recent performances, a new controversy has emerged where the outgoing coach of the Indian football team, Igor Stimac has made some serious allegations against the authorities and some of the men who are sitting at the higher echelons of the domestic game. 

Stimac held a virtual press conference before leaving the country, which was stated to be his last interaction with the media. Although he is still to be paid his fees as part of his contract before he was sacked by the AIFF

Here is a long but factual insight about Igor Stimac’s press conference. 

A journey of five years 

Igor Stimac started his press conference by thanking some people who have been the best part of his journey with the Indian team. He said, “First of all, I would like to thank everyone for the wonderful journey. We’ve all been together in this for more than five years and I have to say that I’m very proud of the things achieved, how the team was reorganized and how the team was growing throughout the years with all the problems and difficulties.”

“We are at the beginning of a new era of Indian football with a different approach and with a different style of game. But, suddenly we are stopped as you all witnessed a few days back in Qatar with some funny things that are not welcomed in football,” Igor Stimac added.

Proud of team & support of fans 

Igor Stimac expressed satisfaction with the hard work of the Indian players throughout the years. He stated, “I’m proud of how the players handled things because it was not easy for them, who didn’t have enough time to work on individual improvements with their coaches in ISL.”

Indian fans have been huge supporters of the sport even on the team’s worst days. Igor highlighted their dedication by saying, “Thanks to all the fans in India. They were amazing and I will never forget how wonderful they were whenever we played and wherever we played.

“It’s not easy when you go around Asia to play away games, you know that you will face difficulties with the referees and that’s less or more, always there is a home team who is supported a little bit or pushed a bit more. We had to be strong to handle all these things. Supporters were wonderful, biggest thanks from the bottom of my heart to everyone.”

Decision to leave

Stimac also talked about his decision to leave before he was sacked. He stated, “Some of my most senior players know that I have decided to leave my position, even if we qualify for the third round of the World Cup Qualifiers. Because I couldn’t keep going on in this way without proper support. Just listening to lies, promises and people who were more worried about their private interests instead of taking proper care of the football house which is their national team.”

“When the new people took over the charge in the football house the clear message was sent to me on the very first day that the coach would renew his contract if he qualified with the team for the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup,” Igor Stimac added

“They decided to extend the contract for the first time just until the end of the Asian Cup, the contract was signed. You need to know that at that time there were no changes in that contract apart from one because there was no mutual trust between the parties there. I insisted only one to be changed.

“That one thing was concerning clause 9 of the contract. I wanted to make sure that these people will not be foolish enough to sack me in the meantime until the Asian Cup is over. So, that clause was changed and I could focus on my work with whatever I had or whatever were the circumstances.”

“They were well aware that there was a huge suffering year ahead of us. I told them clearly that in my position I could not keep staying as an Indian head coach at that time if they didn’t change things radically in the house, if they didn’t make sure that longer camps were provided to the national team, if they don’t organize meetings with responsible stakeholders in the house, especially meaning about FSDL here, which is responsible for the calendar of the ISL,” Igor Stimac added.

“If they cannot influence or change the calendar anymore in the favour of the national team, which is impossible with what they have done. I insisted on signing an extension of the contract at that point with a time limit until the 1st of September.

“They were obviously at that time very excited about what they had seen in the three tournaments we played. I had a huge support amongst you guys, amongst the fans also,” Igor Stimac stated further.

“They said, coach, we want you to stay here, you changed this team, you changed our game, we are happy with your work and all that. So, we agreed that I would prepare my presentation about the past four years of work and that I would prepare what’s awaiting us in the next 2-4 years. Everything was sent to them.”

Preference for young talents

The Croatian stated how he was keen to include young players in the Indian team, which was later altered. Igor Stimac said, “Even I warned them and I explained to them that we’ve been working hard for four years to allow our youngsters to mature quicker, to grow quickly and that we have a great chance taking these youngsters who were once part of the 2017 World Cup, who most of them are at the moment core part of our team. I wanted to show everyone that at the Asian Games, India has enough potential and enough strength without senior players to do well. But, in the end, it changed.”

Mandate to negotiate

Igor Stimac voiced his frustration with the management and revealed how he decided to appoint a lawyer to take proceedings forward. He stated “Last year, after the answer was not coming to me, I already engaged with my lawyer and told him to prepare the letter for a resignation from my position. That Mr. (N.A) Haris was given a mandate to negotiate with me the extension of the contract.

“In the next seven days, I felt like I was chasing Mr. Haris because he was always in the meeting, he was always entering the plane, he was always at the airport without having time to speak with me. So, we had only one chat for about few minutes, and it was clear to me that this he’s not serious once again and that no good things I can expect from that.”

A heart surgery 

Igor Stimac mentioned about his dedication to the job as even after his heart surgery when he was supposed to rest, he kept moving to work with the team. 

“When I received that final warning letter that was December 2nd last year and no one knows this, I finished in the hospital. I was disturbed by everything that was going on, I was stressed and suffering from obvious problems at that time, as I had immediate surgery on my heart, getting two stents.

“After being released home, I was not ready to speak with anyone or find excuses. I was putting myself on the line and going to the Asian Cup to organize the camp for the team, although I should have been at home resting”, Igor Stimac stated.

“I wanted to give my best shot with my boys and that’s what we did. So, in such conditions, I went there to defend the colours of the country. I’m proud of how we did it. Never mind there were no points, there were no goals, but we fought.

“We fought the best way we could. Once that finished, obviously we had to turn and see. It’s already been three months after the contract extension, but half of my staff were still listening to just promises,” Igor Stimac added.

Inclusion of Trevor Sinclair

Trevor Sinclair was added to the Indian coaching team during India’s AFC Asian Cup campaign. Stimac also explained the inclusion of the former Manchester City player. 

Igor Stimac said, “Many of you asked the questions why I invited Trevor Sinclair to help us at that time for the Asian Cup? Now you will probably understand why I needed to make sure that someone is there with me if anything happens to me, so he can help Mahesh (Gawli) and organize the work.” 


A call for Hero Intercontinental Cup

Igor Stimac stated that he received a call regarding a look forward to the Hero Intercontinental Cup in July, to which he reacted, “I got a call from Satya (M. Satyanarayanan), a message, asking me about accepting to have a Hero Intercontinental Cup in July. Once again, I was surprised at how much knowledge these people have about football, about the calendar and everything.

“Because they know very well that ISL clubs start their pre-season beginning of July, somewhere between the 5th and 10th of July. Even to think about organizing the Hero Cup in July, out of the pre-season camp to join the national team, to think something about it is telling you clearly in what kind of a state of mind these people are in the house,” Igor Stimac concluded.

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