The Indian football team head coach also revealed that the AIFF is trying to organize a friendly match after the conclusion of the ISL.

Indian football team head coach, Igor Stimac, in a Facebook live video, had a candid conversation with Anant Tyagi on Friday where he answered questions directly from the fans.

The conversation started when the Croatian was asked regarding the replacement of India’s talismanic striker and captain, Sunil Chhetri. The tactician was a bit irritated by the repeated questions regarding Chhetri’s future and revealed that he wants the Blue Tigers’ skipper to enjoy his game during the time he dons the national colours.

“That’s the most common question and it somehow annoys me. It’s like everyone is pushing Sunil out of the team. It is Sunil Chhetri that happens in a decade or two or three decades. People let him enjoy his game, why are we putting pressure on him? He has got enough years, he has got a good body and he is still scoring,” Stimac quipped.

“What are we going do when he stops playing? We need to make everything that we as a team can replace him. We need a team effort, as players like him are difficult to replace. We cannot see anyone in the league now or in five years to replace him,” the Croatian further elaborated.

“His influence is amazing, but he never crosses the line, which is important for the coach. He is very positive and he guides the young players how not to waste time and he knows how he could have done better, if he had not wasted some of his years also. He is taking proper care of his food, training and he is doing his best to prolong his career for another 3-4 years. His influence is there and we need him. He still enjoys his game and I am very happy to have him as a coach,” he added.

Plans With Indian Football Team

When quizzed about the lack of friendly matches ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers, Stimac spoke about the work that the whole unit are trying to pull through. The 52-year-old tactician also revealed some of it as he said, “Once we finish ISL, there will be a camp in March for the Qatar game and another friendly game, which we are trying to organize. Between that camp and the June camp, we are taking the team abroad to Europe to play 10 games to develop their game and their knowledge.”

“We are working very hard on that and we would love our supporters to appreciate, as they came out on numbers in Guwahati first, Kolkata next and all of Manjappada, who follow us everywhere we go. We will pay them back,” he further asserted.

Thoughts On Sandesh Jhingan

Sandesh Jhingan has been a major absentee for the Blue Tigers in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and Stimac emphasized what the defender means to the team.

“Every coach, at the beginning of the campaign, tries to identify the players who are the leaders in the team. I knew I had Sunil (Chhetri), but I also found out Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu) and Sandesh (Jhingan) and having each one of them in each line was a treasure for me. Then losing one of them, who was as much as important as Sunil in regards to his composure on the pitch,” Igor Stimac said.

“The way he organizes young defenders around him, he was the one willing to do anything to stop conceding goals. So, we missed him a lot, but it is not an excuse because we rely on young players and we have shown that. More than 10 have been introduced into this young Indian team and they will be the future,” he stressed.

Importance Of Educating Players

Igor Stimac also asserted the importance of educating players about the game and changing their mindset and how he changed the style of play.

“When I came here, I was not asked to continue where (Stephen) Constantine stopped. I was asked to change everything which is very difficult. So, I needed to recognize the players who can adjust to the game we wanted to implement, which our supporters wanted to watch. Then improving on their abilities, then working on their tactical development and especially, working on changing their mindset. Changing a mindset of a person isn’t easy after a certain age. So, I am proud of how the players reacted to the challenges in front of them, the big ones. We are all not happy together on not getting wins against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, but time will come,” he revealed.

Igor Stimac also revealed how he is always forced to make changes to his starting XI, owing to injuries and several issues and how players from the ISL and I-League have the chance to perform and get into the national team.

“I would be the happiest coach if there is no need to change the players. There is always injuries, drop in form, lack of confidence, some knocks and some family issues- these are the things which force you to change your team and you cannot do it differently. My work is mainly following players from the ISL and I-League and picking up the best players from there. We created an environment of competition and they must make sure they perform well and their teams get good results. That is the only way they can expect a call-up, The door is open for everyone,” he concluded.