India completed their third-round qualifying campaign with a perfect note, blanking Hong Kong 4-0 for their third successive win in the group here on Tuesday and securing a place in football’s continental showpiece tournament next year.
The stellar show by Stimac-managed team has come against the backdrop of a court move, dismissing Praful Patel-led dispensation in the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and appointing a three-member Committee of Administrators to run the affairs and draw up a new constitution of the federation.
“You can hear things about changes (in AIFF) in the coming months. There will be things that will come out and there will be conditions for me to stay. Some things must change drastically and I don’t care who is on the opposite side – be it the FSDL, AIFF or the government. I’m here talking about the national team, and, if there are ambitions in the country to think where we can be, they must follow our motto,” Stimac said in a no-holds-barred tone.
Stimac’s current contract with Indian football runs out in September.
One of the conditions Stimac set during his interaction with the mediapersons is linked to more game time for his players by their respective clubs. For example, Jamshedpur FC’s Ishan Pandita – who scored India’s fourth goal against Hong Kong – managed to play just 400-odd minutes in 17 matches in the last ISL season.
“In future if I stay here, the league must start when I say. The players picked by us must play in their clubs. We need better communication between clubs and the AIFF. It’s important to stay connected with club coaches to get individual working plans for players so that they can improve. These players deserve more time to be together. I hope coaches this year will get more time to work individually with Indian players who need more time to get to the level I want them at,” Stimac pointed out before leaving for his home back in Croatia.
Focus on a foreigner-less I-League
As part of his roadmap for Indian football, Stimac also stressed on dispensing with foreigners in the I-League.
“We need to reduce foreigners altogether from I-League going if we want to go forward. I need players playing as strikers or forwards and centre-backs. I need reasons why there is a need of foreigner in I-League. We are 8-10 years late in the development phase. At least 8-10 years behind top-8 Asian countries. How will we get there when we want to get there? So, let’s wake up,” he maintained.
The qualifying campaign also brought focus on defender Anwar Ali. Diagnosed with a heart problem three years ago, his career was looking stalled. But the former U-17 World Cup member clawed his way back into the team, overcoming odds.
Talking about Anwar comeback, Stimac said: “When I invited Anwar to the camp, many people thought there were better options than him. But I was sure from day one that he would justify my faith.”
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