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Bhaichung backs Stimac in astrologer controversy, cites precedents of coaches following such practice

Bhaichung cited examples of Brazil's FIFA World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari seeking advices from astrologers. He also said consulting an astrologer is an 'individual choice'.

Former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia (Source: Economic Times)

FILE PHOTO: Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 13 Sep 2023 7:19 AM GMT

Legendary Indian footballer Bhaichung Bhutia came to the rescue of underfire national men's team coach Igor Stimac, who is drawing flak for seeking inputs from an astrologer during India's Asian Cup qualifiers in 2022.

Bhaichung cited examples of FIFA World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who guided Brazil to its fifth and last World Cup annexation in 2002.

"This is not a new thing. In fact, Brazilian coach Scolari used to follow such things a lot. Many world-renowned coaches especially African, American, and European coaches, used to follow this. Scolari is one of the biggest examples. He decides the teams and all via astrologers," Bhaichung was quoted as saying by India Today.

Bhaichung, who played more than 100 matches for India, also underlined the superstitions in African and Kolkata football.

"In African football, there is a spiritual thing like hudo. Before the match, a lot of people do and follow lots of spiritual things. In Kolkata football as well, it (superstitions) is highly followed. Coaches Khalid Jamal and Subhash Bhowmick used to keep flowers at opponents' goalposts," he added.

'What is wrong with it?'

The former player also asked, "If you look at the performance of Stimac... If he consults an astrologer and does well then what is wrong with it? Obviously, it will not give you a win."

"It is up to the individual coach. More than you and me, a coach's job is important. Consult a bus driver or astrologer for the sake of the team," Bhaichung added.

Under Stimac's coaching, India recently won the tri-Nation Series, the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championship title, while maintaining an unbeaten streak at home.

On Tuesday, Indian Express ran a front-page story containing details of Stimac's WhatsApp interaction with an astrologer named Bhupesh Sharma. The report also quoted former secretary-general of All India Football Federation (AIFF) Kushal Das, who admitted that the national federation sought the help of an astrologer to help the Indian team qualify for the January 2024 Asian Cup.

The report claimed that Stimac passed on the data - the date, time and place of birth of four players - to Sharma to compare their stars before a match. Interestingly, he shared the data without keeping the players in the loop.

Reportedly, the astrologer saga took place at a time when Indian football was going through a tumultuous time, with the national team struggling and losing to Jordan in a friendly and administrative issues keeping the national football development at toe.

Das, who was overseeing the administrative work at the time, said, "I was worried if India would qualify for the Asian Cup and so was Igor, let me be very honest. It was not a comfortable situation. For me, the most important thing was that India should qualify. So I told him (Sharma) that I would put you in touch with the coach and if he likes it, he thinks your services can be utilised, he can get back to me. Igor was very convinced and they were in Kolkata throughout.”

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