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regular-article-logo Friday, 24 May 2024

Knives out for Igor Stimac but AIFF can't escape blame over India's 2-1 loss against Afghanistan

When they were expecting to log six points (away and home) against Afghanistan, India fell flat on their face in the 2026 World Cup Qualifier

Angshuman Roy Calcutta Published 28.03.24, 12:33 PM
Igor Stimac

Igor Stimac File picture

Calcutta: India’s 2-1 defeat against Afghanistan in the 2026 World Cup Qualifier in Guwahati on Tuesday will rankle for months.

When they were expecting to log six points (away and home) against Afghanistan, India fell flat on their face. And the man who is being held responsible for the debacle is head coach Igor Stimac.

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The Croat, who has been at the helm since the summer of 2019 and was the darling of the fans after the national team’s super performance in the Intercontinental Cup and the SAFF Championship in June-July last year, seems to have lost faith of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the supporters alike after the Guwahati debacle.

The question now is if he would resign now or leave after the June matches against Kuwait and Qatar. India had a very good chance of qualifying from Group A to the third round but that is now hanging by the thread. Only a win against Kuwait in Calcutta will seal a berth and going by current form, India do not look good enough to beat the West Asian country.

“He has run out of excuses. All this talk of longer camps and all that he kept on parroting sounds hollow now. If a rag-tag Afghanistan can beat us at home, why do you need any camp?” a senior AIFF official told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

Strong words but will the federation have the courage to give the 1998 World Cupper the boot? It has been learnt the AIFF is still in two minds about whether to sack him or wait till June’s two matches.

“The compensation we must give him if we sack Stimac today will burn a hole in our pocket. And then you will have to look for a new coach also. It’s better that he stays till June. If he wants to quit before that, we will not stop him,” the official added.

But doesn’t the AIFF also deserve as many brickbats as the national coach? The senior national team, at present, is looking just like the federation. No focus, zero credibility and just going through the motions.

Mired in controversies and ever-ready to bend in front of the powerful, the new dispensation, which took over the reins in September 2022, has not done anything worthwhile to send a message that it means business.

“Our team is a reflection of the state of affairs in the federation,” another senior official rued.

“I am very sorry to say that. But this is a fact,” the official was candid.

“Yes, Stimac has failed to deliver but what about us? From the Hangzhou Asian Games team controversy to the lack of support to the head coach before the AFC Asian Cup, we have let ourselves down. The toxicity has had a huge impact on the national team. That’s for sure.”

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