We have a very critical outlook when it comes to Indian Football. But, we Indians are so happily immersed in European Football that we really think Indian Football is pathetic to look at. This is despite having a rich history in Football and being termed “Brazil of Asia” till about 1970. The 1962 Indian National Football Team that won Gold in Asian Games, Jakarta was known as the greatest –ever Indian football side managed by India’s most successful coach- Syed Abdul Rahim. No one has been able to take Syed Abdul Rahim’s legacy further and there was a massive decline in Indian Football since 1970.
After displaying our calibre at AFC Asian Cup 2019, albeit losing to UAE and Bahrain, the All India Football Federation have recently taken some bold steps. The first fascinating step was to appoint Isac Doru as Technical Director of the Indian National Football Team. The man who had closely worked with Arsene Wenger, the most successful manager of Arsenal Football Club. Isac Doru has plenty of variegated experience in Europe, America and Asia.
The next step was to appoint Igor Stimac, on the contrary it seemed like Igor Stimac appointed the Indian National Football Team for himself. The man did an extensive research on Indian Football and personally flew to India from Croatia to meet the federation officials and handed them a list of 37 players he wanted for the camp. The officials were stupefied and appointed the knowledgeable man without two thoughts.
Igor Stimac is from Croatia and has managed Croatian National Team, football clubs in Croatia, Iran and Qatar in the last decade. As a player he was quite successful with the Yugoslavian under-20 team who won the 1987 Fifa U-20 World Cup and reached third place with the Croatian National team in Fifa 1998 World Cup.
On 24th May, 2019, Isac Doru and Igor Stimac spoke to the press with confidence. Do read the statement given by both men:
Isac Doru: Every nation wants to play the World Cup. If we work hard it’s possible to enter the World Cup, we have to work as a unit. From the federation, clubs, government support and grassroots. Firstly, we need to build a National Game Model and play synchronised football- when defending, think about attack and when attacking think about defence.
Igor Stimac: I feel I have been in India for five years. India is a sleeping giant in Football and in my two years contract I want to improve the quality of football in India, that’s my main motive. Everything can be sorted out with good communication, so the disparity between the Indian Super League and I League clubs can be solved with the right communication. Indian players are very good but the passion was lost, now I see the boys have the passion to enter the World Cup and I am sure they are willing to work a lot hard for it.
We begin our Fifa World Cup 2022 Asia qualifying second round campaign which is also the second round of AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualification in September this year. And to prepare we are playing in The King’s Cup 2019 in Thailand vs Curacao, ranked 82nd and Thailand ranked 114th In Fifa and in the Hero Intercontinental Cup second edition against Syria ranked 83rd, North Korea ranked 121st and Tajikistan ranked 120th.
These matches will be a great test for us and for Igor Stimac it would be great to see which players can perform in pressure and at a high level when we play against teams like Curacao, whose players mostly play in the Dutch League- Eredivise and English Football. And playing against Syria will be tough, so till September kicks in, let’s support our National Team and have faith in the ISAC/IGOR era in Indian Football.