The sooner Kalyan Chaubey leaves, the better: Sacked India coach Igor Stimac hits out at AIFF President

Stimac was sacked as head coach on Monday following the team's failure to reach the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Former India coach Igor Stimac
Former India coach Igor Stimac (File Photo | AFP)

NEW DELHI: Ousted India football coach Igor Stimac on Friday launched a stinging attack on AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey, saying the sooner he leaves the post, the better it would be for the future of football in the country, where the globally loved sport is not growing at all.

Stimac was sacked as head coach on Monday following the team's failure to reach the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. A day later, the Croat threatened to file a lawsuit against the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in the FIFA Tribunal if his outstanding dues were not cleared in 10 days.

During a lengthy online press conference on Friday, Stimac said Indian football is "imprisoned" and blamed Chaubey for most of the problems besetting the game. He also said that he was "fed up with the lies and unfulfilled promises" during his tenure.

"The sooner Kalyan Chaubey leaves AIFF, the better it is for Indian football," Stimac said. "Kalyan only cares about being popular – recent media meets show that. You say he is a politician, but no one knows him even in Kolkata. We need someone strong, influential, and with backing to lead Indian football.”

"Kalyan's priority is to increase clicks on social media and get photographed with famous players instead of thinking about the well-being of Indian football. Football is the most popular sport in the world, but India is the only place where football is not growing," he added.

Stimac was appointed as the head coach following the departure of his predecessor Stephen Constantine in March 2019. A few days after India suffered a defeat against Qatar in the final second-round match of the World Cup Qualifiers earlier this month, the AIFF sacked Stimac.

Former India coach Igor Stimac
AIFF sacks head coach Igor Stimac

The outspoken coach also took aim at AIFF Technical Committee head and India great I.M. Vijayan, saying he is not fit for the job. "I.M. Vijayan was a fantastic player, but he is not the person to head the national federation's technical committee," he said.

Stimac, who was part of Croatia's team that won the bronze medal at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, said he has been sacked as a coach for the first time in his career.

“It was impossible for me to continue without enough support. I was fed up with the lies, the unfulfilled promises, and being surrounded by people who are only thinking about their own interests," Stimac said from Croatia.

The 56-year-old revealed that he was given a final warning before the Asian Cup merely for trying to convince the AIFF about the importance of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Stimac said that the meeting resulted in him going to the hospital and undergoing surgery to treat a heart condition.

"I was disturbed with everything going on; stressed from the obvious problems. I had immediate surgery on my heart. I wasn't ready to speak to anyone or find excuses. I was ready to put myself on the line to prepare my team for the Asian Cup to give the best shot," Stimac said. “AIFF never consulted me for finalizing matches,” he added.

The AIFF terminated Stimac's contract following a series of poor results. But Stimac blamed it on the federation, saying its president never consulted him before finalizing the team's matches. Stimac also said there is no mutual trust between the AIFF and FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited), the federation's commercial partners who organize the Indian Super League, the country's top-tier football league.

"I was very angry with them (AIFF) at that time. I said to them either we separate our ways or they show the trust. They only care about what's there on social media. They are not concerned about other things. These new guys (the dispensation under Chaubey) who entered the football house know nothing about football. All words, no action,” Stimac said, adding that there is no clear structure and stability in Indian football, thanks to the AIFF.

He also stated that things were better when previous secretary-general Shaji Prabhakaran was in charge of running the day-to-day affairs of Indian football. Last November, Prabhakaran was terminated by the AIFF due to a "breach of trust."

"I was told that Shaji would take over, and that was nice. Contract renewal happened on October 2-3. I was invited to check the draft of the contract and I saw that things were fine with my contract. But what happened next was that Shaji was removed from office and after that, everything went quiet. There was no word on anything," Stimac said.

"My staff was working mostly without any compensation. The team manager was working without any sleep, managing multiple teams, knowing that we are not going to get enough time for preparation," he added.

He also said that his support staff was not provided with the technology used in modern football by teams all over the world. "We were working without GPS equipment, without VO cameras, which I asked for long ago to analyze our training sessions. I also told them if you have a problem with the budget, I would do it, but it was not allowed, and AIFF also didn't do it. Throughout, we were renting match analysts from Goa. We were in fact stealing the platforms from Goa FC. That's how we were working."

When the new set of office-bearers took charge of AIFF two years ago, Stimac said he was told that his contract would not be renewed if the team failed to make the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup. "It was clear that these people don't favor my work; they have a different idea, but I wanted to do my work with as much support as possible," he said.

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