Power hungry men with only private interests, Igor Stimac fires salvo at AIFF

High profile former Indian football head coach demands full compensation till June 2026

Igor Stimac (file photo)
Igor Stimac (file photo)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Ousted India football coach Igor Stimac on Friday launched a stinging attack on AIFF (All-India Football Federation) 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.

It came as no surprise that Stimac’s first direct interaction with the Indian media after his sacking on 17 June would be full of fireworks. The Croatian World Cupper has already made it known in a letter to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) that he will settle for nothing less than a compensation for the two-year period of his contract until 2026.

Speaking at the online press conference from Croatia, Stimac pulled no punches, calling India's football administrators ‘power-hungry’. Stimac was sacked as head coach 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 AIFF at the FIFA tribunal if his outstanding dues were not cleared in 10 days.

‘’I came with an open heart to Indian football, but your football is imprisoned. It will take a couple of decades for things to improve, which I don’t see happening,’’ Stimac said during the no-holds-barred virtual media session, which stretched over one-and-a-half hours.

‘’Not surprised about parting ways. Most of my senior players knew I had decided to leave even if we had qualified for the third round (of the World Cup qualifiers). It was impossible for me to go on without proper support, full of lies and people who had only private interests,’’ Stimac added, calling his sacking "unilateral and unprofessional".

While the AIFF has offered him three months’ salary, his total dues would burn quite a hole in its coffers considering his monthly salary of USD 30,000 (approximately Rs 25 lakh).

In what was also news to Indian football afficionados, 56-year-old Stimac said the job got so stressful for him in the final stages that he had to undergo heart surgery before the Asian Cup. “The people in AIFF don’t know how to run a football house, they don’t know how to organise cups. These people only care about power,” he said.

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, and it was this meeting which resulted in him going to hospital. "After I told them that the World Cup Qualifiers were more important than Asian Cup, I received a final warning from AIFF. When I received the final warning on 2 December, no one knows this, I ended up in hospital."

"The sooner Kalyan Chaubey leaves AIFF, the better it is for Indian football," Stimac added. "Football is the most popular sport in the world, but India is the only place where football is not growing."

The former coach also alleged that the Indian received no technical help from the federation. "I.M. Vijayan was a fantastic player but he shouldn’t be the one presiding over the technical committee (TC). I told AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey that during each camp, we should have one of the members of the TC in the team and see what kind of work we do and what we provide our players. You think they sent someone? No one was there,’’ a visibly disturbed Stimac added.

Asked about his verbal promise of stepping down should India fail to make the third round of the FIFA qualifiers, Stimac said he was ready to do so on his own but had asked acting AIFF secretary-general M. Satyanarayan to wait for a day as he was waiting to finalise some other coaching assignment. ‘’However, I was sent the termination letter the next moment. I will send the legal notice to claim compensation for the full duration of the contract,’’ Stimac said.

Stimac, who was part of the Croatia team which finished as second runner-up at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, said he has been sacked as a coach for the first time in his career. "In my career, I've not been sacked until now, this was the first time. And it was wrongly so, in my reply to AIFF I've said the same."

The ripples of Stimac’s dismissal are still being felt strongly in the corridors of AIFF as many felt the decision should have been taken with a nod from the executive committee. However, the federation top brass felt that they have acted on a recommendation from their technical committee, two of whose members: the legendary Vijayan and Climax Lawrence were present in the virtual meeting last Sunday.

A long drawn battle between Stimac and the AIFF seems to be on the cards now!

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