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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 16 July 2024

We had our ups and downs but thanks for the memories: Igor Stimac pens farewell note to 'Blue Tigers'

To all Indian football fans and my blue tigers, it's been an honour to serve you over the last five years. I didn't expect to form such a strong bond with this country and be so personally invested when I first joined you all, says the former coach

PTI New Delhi Published 19.06.24, 04:40 PM
Igor Stimac.

Igor Stimac. File picture.

Bitter with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) but full of praise for the players he coached for five years, Igor Stimac on Wednesday said he never expected to be "so personally invested" in the country when he first joined and lauded his wards for their "courage and character".

Stimac, who was terminated after India lost to Qatar in its final second-round group match to bow out of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, has threatened the AIFF with legal action if it failed to clear his dues in the next 10 days.

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He has also accused AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey of breaching his contract multiple times and held him squarely responsible for the Indian team's failure to progress.

The Croat has said that his stint here left him with serious health problems and he never wants to hear from the AIFF again. However, he expressed his affection for the players and fans in a note of thanks on his X page.

"To all Indian football fans and my blue tigers, it's been an honour to serve you over the last five years. I didn't expect to form such a strong bond with this country and be so personally invested when I first joined you all," said the coach, who is now back at his base in Croatia.

"I am proud of every player and team member. Together we were able to create an environment of hope and belief, we pushed each other physically and mentally to play fearless, intelligent football, which required a lot of courage and effort," he added.

Stimac reiterated that the AIFF must shoulder a part of the blame for the team's failed World Cup qualifying campaign during which it lost to a lower-ranked Afghanistan and settled for a draw against Kuwait in home matches which it was expected to win.

"Not just me but the entire country acknowledges the type of game and character you intended to display every time you stepped on the pitch. We were very close to taking the next step but to make that happen, everyone needs to be on board.

"Not only the players on the pitch and the team staff members but also the ones sitting in the offices," he asserted.

Counting the positives of his tenure, the 56-year-old Croat said he would forever be thankful for the memories he made with the team.

He said the team "survived the FIFA ban, the administrators running the football house, two years of pandemic" and managed to get inside the top-100 for some time despite the many difficulties.

"We had our ups and our downs, but every one of you will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you for all the memories and a wonderful five years. Jai Hind," he signed off.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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