When the All India Football Federation‘s technical committee sits down to pick India’s next coach at the Football House in New Delhi on Thursday, it will have few other than Croatian Igor Stimac to choose from. The meeting will start at 2 p.m. and, according to officials, India’s next coach will be known by evening. After Stephen Constantine stepped down from the role post-India’s AFC Asian Cup adventure earlier this year, over 250 aspirants threw their hats in the ring to become his successor.
There were some big names such as former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson, France’s World Cup coach Raymond Domenech, veteran English manager Sam Allardyce and Rogerio Micale, who helped Brazil win their maiden Olympic gold at Rio 2016. While Eriksson was never in the race, Domenech, Allardyce, and Micale were too expensive. The AIFF has always been clear that they are not willing to pay more than $25,000 per month to the national coach, which includes income tax expenses.
Therefore, deciding to cut their coat according to cloth, the AIFF mandarins pruned the list to four names — 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. Although all four individuals have limited coaching experience with any senior national team, it is the 51-year old Stimac who finds himself ahead in the race due to several reasons, primary being the monetary part. “Stimac fits into the federation’s budgetary allocations. Roca’s name has been there from the beginning but his salary expectations are too high,” a source told IANS. “If there’s isn’t something out of the way happening during the interviews, Stimac will be the next India coach,” he stated.
AIFF officials are also impressed with the fact that Stimac played a big role as the national coach in taking Croatia to the 2014 World Cup finals. However, Roca’s chances cannot be completely ruled out, given his familiarity with Indian football. Having coached Bengaluru FC, the Spaniard has good equations with several national team players, including skipper Sunil Chhetri. “We need someone who knows Indian football and understands the players,” India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had told IANS in an interview.
But it is Roca’s salary demand of more than $30,000 per month which is keeping him behind Stimac. Ericson and Lee Min-sung, on the other hand, could find themselves on the back foot 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 country’s U-21 squad for seven years and was the chief coach of Sweden at 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.