NEW DELHI: NAMASTE, aap se mil ke accha laga (nice to meet you).”
That’s how India’s new coach Igor Stimac and technical director Isac Doru began their first press conference on Friday. The usual questions popped up. Both didn’t hold back, giving an honest assessment of the task in front of them.
Social media is awash with talks of how to solve the issue of Indian football having two parallel leagues. Stimac weighed in with his thoughts. “There are certain problems between the leagues and the organisation. Everything can be sorted if we communicate. I-League has something that ISL can’t have: tradition. You can’t buy that. ISL is more competitive. I-League is where the young players are. It’s not my job to resolve the conflict, but I will give my opinion.”
The King’s Cup is the first assignment for the Stimac, with India set to leave for Thailand on June 1. The 51-year-old, who’s had a couple of training sessions with the players, needs to trim the squad down to 23.
“It seems like I’ve been in the country for almost five years, considering the research I have put in before arriving! I already call players by their names,” remarked the former Croatia manager. “We’ve been looking into fitness, and have conducted various tests to figure out where the boys are in terms of readiness. They seem to be.”
Stimac is aware of the call to implement an attacking, attractive style of play; something which his predecessor Stephen Constantine could not achieve. But he asked for patience while pointing out ground realities.
“I appreciate all that Constantine has done. He deserves praise for them from 170 to 101. I’ve seen the games he coached. He opted for defensive football because of the players he had. I’ll do my best to have more options, to learn how we can transform into different systems. I won’t promise that good things will happen overnight. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, we’ll be okay.”
Doru, a former assistant to Arsene Wenger, has been put in charge to ensure the country develops a footballing style right from the grassroots. “In the 1970s, India was a powerhouse in Asia. We have to learn from the past.
“We have to chalk out our principles and work towards a synchronised, possession-based philosophy. It’s one of the principles and that’s what we should implement across age-groups, especially, the golden one comprising U-8s, U-10s and U-12s. I have already sat down with different coaches. Now I’ll invite the players who played in the ‘70s.”
‘Lack of focus our weakness’
Stimac felt that lack of concentration and tactical knowledge were areas of concern for India. “Because of that, we have conceded late goals. Another thing that I’ve noticed is that the boys aren’t good on the second ball, something that is of utmost importance. Over the next few months, my job will be to find more competitors for the centre-back position.”