CHENNAI: For a full week, the Nicolai Adam affair was just an unfortunate development that threatened to derail the progress of the country’s U-17 team, months before their World Cup bow. But on Monday, it took a sharp turn with the Sports Ministry, who had until now been dipping their toes, deciding to take the full plunge.
Express had reported on Saturday that Ministry officials were far from happy with the All India Football Federation’s handling of the issue, as it was them who were paying Adam’s wages. On Monday, Sports Minister Vijay Goel left no one in doubt as to where the ministry stood on the issue, declaring that it was his call whether to sack Adam or not, not the AIFF’s.
“We sought a report from AIFF and we have received it. We made the appointment on being asked by AIFF. The ministry is paying salary to the coach. So, without ministry’s consent, nobody can remove a coach. The federation has no right to sack the coach,” he said.
“We will speak to coach, players, many times there are some doubts. We will have to judge what is right or wrong. Federation will be given some weight because promotion of a sport is their responsibility,” he added.
Goel’s narrative differed significantly from AIFF officials, who had maintained that they had set in motion a process at the end of which they would decide if Nicolai stayed or not. It was also widely reported that AIFF president Praful Patel had, last week, asked Adam to quit on his own or be fired. AIFF secretary Kushal Das could not be reached while other federation officials were unwilling to comment on Goel’s statement. The minister also revealed that if things came to firing Adam, a successor would be named in two or three days. “We will not delay. In case the coach is removed, we will appoint another one fast. We will do it in two days.”
With the Sports Ministry reining in the likes of the Indian Olympic Association by withdrawing recognition, the AIFF would be wary of getting on their wrong side, especially this close to the biggest tournament in Indian football history.
But federation sources continued to maintain that Adam was a dead man walking. “It is not a matter of if, but when. The peacemaker talks that Bhaichung Bhutia tried to play have broken down and the boys are not flinching from their stand. A coach cannot function if his players are not willing to play for him. In this case, all 21 boys are now unwilling to play under Nicolai. It’s not as if AIFF likes having to change coaches this close to a tournament. There really is no choice.”
Meanwhile, the team is still in Delhi while Adam has gone back to his base in Goa. The boys are due to start training on Monday, but it is unclear as to who will helm the sessions.