Indian football head coach Igor Stimac feels that the country must work to become a recognised force in Asian football again. “The football family including the fans, mass media, all clubs, marketing sponsors, and AIFF need to work together to make India a recognised force in Asian football again,” Stimac, who took charge of the national team last month, said. “We have the obligation to work in favour of National Football in India. Everyone is equally responsible to do everything possible in its development and securing its better future. Football is a team work, both on and off the field,” he was quoted as saying by the Asian Football Confederation website. India was a force to reckon with in Asian football till the early 1970s.

The 51-year-old Stimac’s first assignment at the helm of affairs will be the Kings Cup in Buriram, Thailand, with a match against Curacao on June 5. Asked what are his expectations from the team in the King’s Cup, he said, “At the moment, it’s off-season, and we are introducing our way of work to the players, and improving on their fitness capacities. “We are going to use the King’s Cup to try a few different things, and as many players as possible. At this stage the result is not our priority, but at the same time, we are certainly going there to win matches.”

As a player, Stimac was a part of the third-place finishing Croatian side in the 1998 World Cup. As a coach, he also guided Croatia to the 2014 World Cup. He has also worked with clubs in Iran and Qatar. “Of course it (experience) helps. You can’t buy the experience of playing at the highest level, neither can you learn. Either you have it, or you don’t. It helps us to recognise the body language of the players, the reading on their faces, how they feel, knowing and understanding what they need to do, and perform better.”

Asked what attracted him to apply for the India job, he said, “Putting it very simply, the challenge. India is a great country and we are here to do our best in making it happen in football too.” Stimac said he did a lot of research and homework before appearing for the interview for the position. “My first talk about Indian football was with our FF President Mr Davor Suker. After we found out there is a vacant place for Manager/Head Coach of the Indian National Team we decided to go for it. We saw it as a great opportunity in building up bridges between our FF, and All India Football Federation in all aspects.

“As and when I received information from AIFF that I was short listed with another three candidates, offering an interview either through Skype or in person, I didn’t have any doubts. I felt best to present myself – that was my immediate decision.” He said he watched many ISL matches, analysed former India head coach Stephen Constantine’s work, learnt about AIFF and read about India’s culture, history and tradition. “It was followed with some extensive research on each ‘to do’ point all the way through. I started working on my presentation, and by now, you know the result.