Croatian Igor Stimac stands ahead in the race for the national football coach’s job after the All India Football Federation (AIFF) shortlisted four coaches to be interviewed by its technical committee in New Delhi next Thursday. After going through the applications of around 250 aspirants, the AIFF pruned down the list to four — Igor Stimac, Hakan Ericson of Sweden, South Korea’s Lee Min-sung and former Bengaluru FC manager Albert Roca of Spain — to be interviewed by the committee headed by Shyam Thapa.
The national camp for the Kings Cup will begin here on May 20. According to federation sources, though the decision of the technical committee will be regarded final, Stimac has a better chance of getting the job because of several reasons. “The Croatian coach has been highly recommended by his national federation. Moreover, his salary demands fit into the federation’s budgetary allocations,” sources said. The AIFF is unwilling to pay more than $25,000 per month to the national coach, which includes income tax expenses.
AIFF officials too are impressed with the fact that Stimac played a big role as the national coach in taking Croatia to the 2014 World Cup finals. However, he was removed before the finals because of some disappointing results. Stimac was also a well-known name as a player. The 51-year-old former central defender had played for Croatia for 13 years between 1990 and 2002 and was a member of the squad which finished third in the 1998 World Cup in France. He was also a part of the Yugoslavia squad that won the Youth World Cup in 1987.
Stimac’s biggest rival could be Roca, as the Spaniard’s name is being discussed in the soccer fraternity as a possible India coach right from the day the contract of Stephen Constantine came to an end after the Asian Cup final rounds. Having coached Bengaluru FC, the Spaniard has good equations with several national team players, including skipper Sunil Chhetri.
“Roca would have been a good choice because of his experience in India, but the salary could be a problem. He has asked for more than $30,000 per month, which is beyond the federation’s limit. To add to it, he has never handled a national team before,” sources said. Ericson and Lee Min-sung, on the other hand, could find themselves on the back foot in the race because of their lack of experience with a senior national team. Ericson, whose father Georg Ericson was the national coach of Sweden, remained in charge of the Sweden U-21 squad for seven years and was the chief coach of Sweden in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Lee Min-sung, who played two World Cups in 1998 and 2002, was also a U-23 assistant national coach of South Korea. Moreover, he has expressed his desire to bring his own support staff, something which may not be agreed upon by the federation.