The All India Football Federation (AIFF) appointed Igor Stimac as head coach of the men’s senior national team on May 15. Stimac, who was hired after AIFF’s executive committee cleared his name for a two-year contract, will begin his stint at the King’s Cup in Buriram, Thailand, where India open against Curacao on June 5.
Stimac, a defender who had an illustrious career with the Croatia national side in the 1990s, later coached Croatia through a successful qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil. During his tenure as the national of Croatia, he handed international debuts to the likes of Mateo Kovacic, Ante Rebic, Alen Halilovic, and Ivan Perisic amongst others. His last assignment was with Al-Shahania Club in Qatar.
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As a player, he was part the of the Croatia national squad which finished third at the FIFA World Cup 1998 in France, and a member of the side which qualified for the quarterfinals of the 1996 UEFA European Championship in England. Besides, he was also a part of the Yugoslavia U-19 National Team which won the 1987 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Chile.
Stimac, the only candidate who appeared in person for the AIFF interview, was chosen over a shortlist of candidates that included Albert Roca, former head coach of Bengaluru FC. South Korea’s Lee Ming-sung and Switzerland’s Hakan Ericson.
According to sources, Stimac’s preparation and knowledge of Indian players impressed the AIFF technical committee which interviewed him. Stimac proposed a blueprint for the future and presented a 30-member short list of players for his first assignment. The two inputs showcased his desire to hit the ground running if appointed as the Indian football team coach.
“Igor is the right candidate to coach the Blue Tigers. I welcome him on board. Indian Football is going through a transition, and I am confident his vast experience will guide us to higher echelons,” Praful Patel, President of the AIFF, said while announcing the appointment.
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Shyam Thapa, the chairman of the technical committee of AIFF insisted “Mr. Stimac’s recommendation was unanimous”.
“All the members of the Technical Committee including the AIFF Technical Director Mr. Isac Doru were immensely impressed, and convinced about him being best suited for the job. He is a World Cupper, and has guided Croatia to World Cup as a coach. Who else could have been a better candidate?” added the former India International and a member of the bronze-medal winning squad from the 1970 Asian Games. “He also impressed us with his extensive research on Indian Football.”
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