Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.


EXCLUSIVE: We need to be patient to see results — Coach Igor Stimac

The Bridge caught up with Indian football team coach Igor Stimac in the training session at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati.

EXCLUSIVE: We need to be patient to see results — Coach Igor Stimac

Abdul Gani

Published: 6 Oct 2019 7:05 AM GMT

Igor Stimac has already proved that he is here to bring a change. The 52-year old former Croatian centre-back and a proud winner of Bronze in the 1998 World Cup gave a hint of a new Indian football when the Blue Tigers tamed Qatar at their home during the World Cup qualifier on September 10.

Now, Stimac is busy preparing his boys for the next qualifier against Bangladesh on October 15. Though the match will be played in Kolkata, team India is training in Guwahati.

Before a training session at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati, The Bridge caught up with the coach:

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Overall preparation of the team:

We are happy to be back here where we have fantastic support in the game against Oman. It was a heart-breaking game, but we are happy to be here to prepare against the Bangladesh match, which is crucial for us.

We had a great game against Qatar. You have the full rights to celebrate and keep flying high, but I have told my players that we don’t have much time to do that. I have told the boys to forget that match immediately because we have another important match coming up. If we don’t get three points from the next game, the point from Doha means nothing.

 Igor Stimac is busy preparing his boys for the next qualifier against Bangladesh on October 15
Igor Stimac is busy preparing his boys for the next qualifier against Bangladesh on October 15

It was a great result it will be written in the history of Indian football. But for us, it doesn’t mean much because we have many points in front of us… we need to keep working hard together.

Friendly against the NorthEast United FC on October 9 and facing his former teammate Robert Jarni who is the head coach of the NE side:

Back home, we face each other every day. Because we live 200 metres away from each other. I see him in the market, in the bank and everywhere. But I have never faced him on the opposite side as a coach. It will be a great pleasure. He is a great coach and a fantastic player. I hope he will have a great future with NorthEast United.

It’s a chance for my players to prove themselves and earn a place in the team. We just need to decide how many changes we can make during the game. It will be nice to try as many players in the game. I expect them to do with the best of their abilities and competitiveness against the NEUFC.

Keeping off the pressure from his players:

I’m trying not to put any pressure on the players result wise. We are working and progressing on the style of playing our game, possession game and the positional game also. If we can keep going this way, keeping the pressure out of the dressing room, this will help us. I’m more concentrating on improving our quality of the game, and that will bring results in our way. We have shown that in such a short time the Indian team has changed drastically.

Igor Stimac is focussing more on improving the quality of the game
Igor Stimac is focussing more on improving the quality of the game

I have invited many new young players, and it’s a brand new team, unlike the one who played the Asia Cup. We all need to be patient. I know the excitement is here and everybody is talking, and everyone is happy with the results we brought from Qatar. But it’s early. Let’s be patient and be stick with this team and keep doing things to promote football in the country. Also, I’m working to create a new platform for the future.

Analysing the Bangladesh team which has defeated Bhutan 2-0 in their last game:

We respect the opponent a lot. During the last two games, we didn’t get a win. And it’s not an easy game. It’s much more than football. There will be a lot of passion involved.

The players are being concentrated at the danger the Bangladesh team would bring in the pitch. This will be a completely different game than the last two. I suppose this is a game where we need to attack 90 minutes. We need to break the two blocks of defence of Bangladesh who mostly rely on the counter-attack.

A message to the struggling players from poor background:

Football is the home for players from low-income families. All the great players in the world came from poor families. Being poor doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful in football. I think it’s an advantage because when you are hungry…that motivates you. That is the greatest motivational point and factor for being a successful sportsperson.

When you are in a well-settled family who has everything, the kids are thinking about educating themselves and going to school, which is again important for the footballers. But they are looking for some other things. That’s why I see India as a great country to work in. But we need to provide them with the facilities – football pitches, balls and good coaches. That’s not much, but we can do that.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who did a fantastic job against Qatar:

Amazing! I think our goalkeeper coach has done a fantastic job. Not only with Gurpreet but other keepers as well. The fitness level and agility have improved. If we keep on working like this, very soon we will be among the top Asian countries.

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh was sensational during India's encounter with Qatar
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh was sensational during India's encounter with Qatar

The injury woes in the team:

There are always some injuries, but as usual, I don’t try to worry much with injuries. This is a team game. That’s why I have invited so many new players to see what can they do and help the national team when the time comes.

All of them also know that each day is a new challenge. They have been given a simple message, forget the Qatar match and try for your place for the Bangladesh game. Whoever is injured, we will replace him with another one. That’s it. Very simple!

Missing Sunil Chhetri during Qatar match:

We all know how important he is for Indian football. Not only in the pitch, just having him around in the dressing room…together with the team means a lot. And that’s why he is so special for Indian football and footballers. Also, we have shown that the team can survive and exist without Sunil. That was the biggest challenge for us, and we made it. But I’m glad that he is back.

Sunil Chhetri is back in the Indian squad
Sunil Chhetri is back in the Indian squad

Guwahati as a practice venue:

There are a few obvious reasons. We were welcomed here during the Oman game. We felt good, and everything was provided.

The training facilities were excellent, and the main ground too was fantastic. We also wanted to come back to show appreciation to the local fans who supported us in a fantastic way. They kept on pushing us to give the best. And that’s how we are going to operate in the future as well.

Now, I also need to mention how happy we are to go back to Kolkata for the match, which is the Mecca of Indian football. I see the excitement among the players in the dressing room of going back to Kolkata…playing in front of the packed stadium. It’s great to know that the tickets sales are going fantastic. Probably 60 to 70 thousand people will be there. It’s very important for us to achieve the first victory of the qualifier.

Next Story