New Delhi, May 9: Croatia's World Cupper and former manager Igor Stimac is set to become Indian football team's head coach after the AIFF Technical Committee on Thursday recommended his name for the top job.
The 51-year-old Stimac, a member of the Croatian team that finished third in the 1998 World Cup, got the nod from the Technical Committee which interviewed four shortlisted candidates on Thursday. "We have recommended Igor Stimac's name to the All India Football Federation's Executive Committee after interviewing all the four candidates. We found him as best suited to become India coach," Technical Committee Chairman Shyam Thapa told PTI.
The AIFF is likely to officially announce Stimac's appointment as India coach on Friday. Stimac's contract is likely to be for three years initially and his first assignment will be the Kings Cup international tournament in Thailand. Stimac's first match as India coach will be against Caribbean nation Curacao in the Kings Cup at Buriram in Thailand on June 5.
A national camp is expected to begin here from May 20. The India head coach's position has been lying vacant after Stephen Constantine quit the post following India's AFC Asian Cup campaign earlier this year. Stimac was the only candidate who turned up in person for the interview while the other three -- South Korean Lee Min-sung, Spaniard Albert Roca and Hakan Ericson of Sweden -- were interviewed via skype. The newly-appointed Technical Director Doru Isac was also present during the interview process.
After the interview process, the Technical Committee had a long meeting of nearly four hours in which the members debated at length about the suitability of the candidates. The discussion was basically about choosing between Stimac and Roca, who had a successful two-year stint as Bengaluru FC head coach in 2016-18.
Stimac's impressive credentials as former player and manager clinched the issue in his favour. "His (Stimac's) experience as former player and manager is huge, so the Committee was unanimous in the decision to pick him. Salary-wise and in every aspect I feel he is best suited. Indian football will be in safe hands under him," Thapa, a former India player himself, added.
Roca is basically a club coach and except for a short stint as El Salvador manager (2014-15), he had never been at the helm of affairs of a national team. His demand for a higher salary, which was above the affordable limit of the AIFF, also did not help his cause. Besides Thapa and Isac, other members of the Technical Committee who attended the meeting were Henry Menezes, Prasanta Banerjee, Pradip Datta, G P Palguna and Sundar Raman.
Ishfaq Ahmed was granted leave of absence. AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das and national team director Abhishek Yadav were also present as ex-officio members.
Born in the small town of Metkovic in the then Yugoslavia, Stimac has played in 53 international matches for Croatia as center-back between 1990 and 2002. He played at Euro 1996 and at the 1998 World Cup, when Croatia finished third. Before that he played in 14 matches for Yugoslavia Under-20 team in 1987.
In club football, he played in 322 matches in all from 1985 to 2002. He had three spells with Croatian side Hajduk Split and also played for for Cadiz in Spain and for Derby County and West Ham United in England. As coach, he was in charge of the Croatian national team from 2012 to 2013 and also guided the team to 2014 World Cup Finals. He had brief spells in charge of Croatian teams like Hajduk Split, Cibalia, NK Zagreb and Zadar before trying his hand at Iranian club Sepahan and Qatari side Al-Shahania.
Owing to the Indian team's spirited showing in the AFC Asian Cup and a run of 13-match unbeaten streak prior to that, more than 250 candidates, including some top names from Europe, have applied for the job. The list included the likes of France's World Cup winning coach Raymond Domenech, former England managers Sven-Goran Eriksson and Sam Allardyce. The list was pruned down to 40 and finally only four candidates were shortlisetd for interview.
(Source: PTI & AIFF)