Igor Stimac was tipped favourite when the technical committee of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) met on Thursday afternoon to select the national coach. But if sources in the federation are to be believed, not everyone in the committee was completely convinced by the Croatians abilities. Yet in the end, the Croatian received the committee’s stamp of approval as his critics did not find enough ground to oppose the appointment. So much so that the committee, headed by Shyam Thapa, refused to officially recommend a second choice saying it would only be needed if Stimac’s negotiations with AIFF fell through by any chance. “Stimac was finally recommended but not before some serious questions were raised about the overall success rate of his coaching career. At least one member commented on the Croatian looking more like a public relations expert than a technical man,” a source in the technical committee told IANS.

The same member carried specially prepared documents with him in the meeting having details reports about the merits and demerits of all the four coaches shortlisted for the interview. The member pointed out that Stimac’s success rate as a coach had not been more than 30 per cent in the last few years. However, the Croatian, who appeared for the interview in person, had a ready answer for this. More than six feet tall and wearing a dark-coloured suit, Stimac told the committee that his success rate was low because he had always preferred to associate himself with underdogs. He loved to take up challenges and it was one of the reasons why he applied for the India job. He also pointed out that under him, Croatia qualified for the 2014 World Cup.

But what really clinched the deal in favour of Stimac, a member of the Croatia national team who finished third in 1998 World Cup, was his detailed knowledge of Indian football. “He had the list of 36 Indian footballers in hand and he knew each of them by their playing positions. In fact, we found he has a fair idea about the strength and weaknesses of each player. He was even aware that central defender Anas Edathodika has retired and India need a new face in his position. We were truly impressed by his homework,” said another committee member.

“Igor has a good idea of both ISL (Indian Super League) and I-League. He said proper scouting was necessary for taking Indian football forward and it should be done through ISL and I-League,” the member said. Another issue which found favour with the committee was Stimac’s ready agreement to use an all-Indian support staff. Unlike Spanish coach Albert Roca, who wanted to bring an assistant coach of his own choice, Stimac said he would have no problem in using local coaches. Former India captain S. Venkatesh will be attached with Stimac as the assistant coach for India’s next campaign in King’s Cup next month.