The Blue Tigers’ head coach expressed his opinion on the development of Indian players in the ongoing Indian Super League season.
The Indian football team will gear up for their forthcoming national camp following the conclusion of the ongoing Indian Super League. Earlier this month, head coach Igor Stimac had announced the list of 35 probable players who could make the cut for the coming friendly matches for the Blue Tigers. The Croatian tactician joined sports presenter Anant Tyagi for the latest episode of Let’s Football Live. He thoroughly reviewed the seventh edition of the ISL and gave his opinions on certain important topics.
On Hyderabad FC
The coach was particularly impressed with Hyderabad FC, especially for their ability to compete well in the absence of key international players. “I am quite happy with what I have seen this season, especially with Hyderabad, which was the greatest and the best surprise of this ISL season. I felt sorry at the end for Manolo Marquez and his boys, who worked very hard, who played most of the games with only three foreign players in the starting lineup. It proved and showed us that we are right and Indian and homegrown players deserve more chances and more place for their development,” Igor Stimac said.
Indian players in continental competitions
Multiple Indian clubs like FC Goa, ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC will be competing in the AFC Cup and the AFC Champions League in the coming weeks. However, the Croatian cautioned that these teams have their task cut out due to the different policies for foreign players on the continental front.
“They will face another problem now, which is connected to the foreign players policy that we are still having in India. That’s one of the reasons why we were trying to find solutions together with all stakeholders in Indian football. Between AIFF, FSDL and others, how to help Indian football, but also our clubs from ISL who will compete in the Asian cup competitions,” he said.
He added, “They will now go and face the opponents which are used to playing with foreign players policy of 3+1, which Indian clubs are not used to. They are still having five players in the starting lineup (foreign players) and they didn’t develop as many as it should be (Indian players) in these vital positions. So, this might be a weakness they will face in the coming games.”
Length of season & improvement of Indian players
The head coach elaborated at length about the duration of ISL seasons and how that has so far not given foreign coaches enough time to work with Indian players.
“In regards to the shortness of our season, from the very beginning of the ISL we are coming now to a situation, where we are expecting that our seasons will become season of eight months, where foreign coaches will have more opportunities to concentrate our work in the development of players. They didn’t have that chance until now,” Igor Stimac started.
“And if you ask me now, how much have the Indian players improved their game under the work of foreign coaches, that’s the biggest question we need to ask ourselves. Did Udanta (Singh) improve his crosses? Not so sure about this. Did Ashique (Kuruniyan) improve his scoring capacity? Not really. His crosses? I am not sure about this. All our players who emerged in the last few years, all Indian players, were showing at certain points that they have the quality. But, how much have they improved in recent years? It’s the answer we need to be very realistic when we are answering this and we need to say true: not much,” the head coach further opined.
He additionally explained, “They are still in scoring two-three-four goals and making two assists, which is not enough for a front player. We still don’t have too many Indian players emerging in the centre-back position. Attacking midfielders, it’s another problem. We sit down together and make a long-term plan for Indian football, which is on the table, but needs to be planned carefully with the foreign players policy.
“Everything, which is needed for foreign coaches to spend more time with Indian players on the pitch, improving their crosses, their shooting abilities and positional defending, we are going to see a much better Indian football team,” he quipped.
Young Indian players who caught the eye
Igor Stimac named Chinglensana Singh and Ishan Pandita as the two young Indian players who impressed him the most in this campaign. He mentioned that most of the other upcoming performers have already been under his watch, for example the likes of Liston Colaco, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Manvir Singh among others.
However, the coach said, “I would go with Chinglensana Singh, who never got his chance in Goa. The way he played, composure he showed, calmness with the ball, accuracy with the passing, positioning play, that was something which made me really happy because you know how much we struggle in these positions.”
Igor Stimac also pondered much more on Pandita, whose goalscoring knack has certainly been noticed by him. “Ishan Pandita, yes. He is a big surprise, yes. Because I didn’t have him in my notes. He showed up here after spending years abroad with his family fighting for his football chances. He gets, I am not sure, less than 90 minutes to play and he scores four goals. But, most of all when he comes first time on the pitch, he scores the first goal, okay, that’s the case happens quite often. Then, he comes next game three minutes on the pitch, scores again. Then he repeats it four times,” Igor Stimac said.
He added, “What I need to check out, is he capable of doing this for the national team? You know, this will happen very soon. He deserves his chance because we are so weak in these positions. Not weak in players’ quality because we have Sunil (Chhetri) there, we have Manvir there, our two first options, but we need players emerging in these positions. Definitely, Ishan is defined as a centre forward player and we are going to give him a chance to prove himself on the international level.”