Ever since taking charge of the Indian National Team on May 15, newly appointed Head Coach Igor Stimac has already identified a good future for Indian football spurred by youth development and robust progeny coming on the back of an inspiring performance in the AFC Asian Cup earlier this year.
In his first press conference, the Croat who won a bronze medal in the FIFA World Cup, touted India as a sleeping giant with huge potential and talked at length about his short-term goals, the team’s preparation, the challenges ahead and a lot more. EXCERPTS:
What are your thoughts about Indian football?
Indian football is a sleeping giant and I see many good opportunities here with the youth coming up. The youngsters in the setup here are knocking on the doors of the senior national team and I am happy with the technical quality of the players. We can do great things and I am expecting a good future with the senior national team and the U-23 team.
I have read about Indian football a lot and I have a feeling that I have been here for 5 years already. I am overwhelmed by the chance given to me by the technical committee and we can improve, develop and get results with the young players that are knocking on the door.
What are your thought about India qualifying for the FIFA World Cup?
The main objective of any nation is to qualify for the FIFA World Cup and no one has stopped us from dreaming about qualifying. As strong is our dream, the stronger the belief becomes. If we are to qualify then hard work becomes important along with the willingness to learn every day, more professionalism and more communication.
My job here won’t just be to improve the senior team and the U-23 team but holistically improve football in the nation. The jobs of meeting the local clubs and helping them is something that I am ready to do.
What will be your coaching philosophy?
The coaching philosophy would be based on giving more tactical options. Football is going up rapidly and we need to speed up. I need to appreciate the former coach Stephen Constantine for taking India from 173 to 101 in the FIFA Rankings as doing something like that is not easy. But he opted for a more defensive style of play that was more effective to the players that he had.
I will do my best to give more tactical options and plans to switch from one option to the other in the game because when you are losing 1-0 you can’t sit back and defend. At that point we need to evolve into another concept of a football system.
Good things will not happen overnight but with a bit of luck and understanding between my staff, players and the AIFF will be good. I have already seen many talented players with great capacity and they are ready to perform.
How has been the national camp so far?
We have tested the physical abilities of the players as they were coming from off-season and it was important to know their physical conditions. I will finish the working plan of how much intensity I can put on them because we don’t want the players to go to their clubs injured.
So far, the players are in good condition and I am satisfied with them. We will start working on technicalities and will adapt to the gameplay which suits us best.
We don’t have much time to change a lot and I have to decide about the 25-26 players that will be staying with us and then choose the final list of the 23 players.
What are your thoughts on the senior players in the team?
I speak everyday with all of the players to get information from them and players like Sunil Chhetri, Sandesh Jhingan are role models for the young players coming up and I am quite happy with their behaviour.
What areas of improvement have you spotted?
We need to improve our concentration and our tactical knowledge and movement in the game. We also have to improve on our reaction to the second ball, which is one of the most important things in football today.
However, we need to develop quick players with good speed and with hearts of lions and tigers.
What will your short term goals be?
Good results start with good defending and that is something which we have to work upon. We need to work on the centre-back position and we need to find more players to challenge for those spot to develop a healthy competition.