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Sunil Chhetri needs to fight for a place in the team just like others - Igor Stimac

“Of course, Sunil (Chhetri) is very valuable to our team. He is a role model to these young players who are knocking on the door. He has played so many games, he is so experienced, and has scored so many goals. But just like the others, he needs to fight for a place in the team,” India’s football coach Igor Stimac said.

football Updated: May 24, 2019 16:53 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Sayan Ghosh
New Delhi
Sunil Chhetri,Igor Stimac,Indian football
File image of Igor Stimac.(Twitter/AIFF)

As far as first impressions go, no one can have any complaints with the newly appointed Indian football team coach Igor Stimac. The former Croatia international, who won the bronze medal at the 1998 World Cup, impressed everyone with his knowledge of Indian players during the interview and he announced his 37-member preliminary squad for the upcoming Kings Cup even before arriving in the country.

However, these are only early days for the new coach and with India playing a number of major qualifiers later this year, Stimac has a steep mountain to climb in front of him. During his interaction with the media on Friday, the new India coach made it clear that he has done his fair share of research on the local players and termed the country as a ‘sleeping giant’ when it comes to football.

“I am overwhelmed by the chance that the Technical Committee has given me. I see India as a sleeping giant in football and I see many opportunities for youngsters that are coming up the ranks. As I have been involved in developing players in Croatia, I see this as a great chance to help the AIFF in organising and developing young talents who are coming up,” Stimac said in his first press conference.

Stimac is known for his tactical gambles and during his stint with Croatia, he faced a lot of criticism for leaving the midfield unbalanced on a number of occasions. Constantine preferred to go the conservative way with more focus on defense and that is the way the team has played in the last couple of years.

When asked about the possible shift in tactics, he praised Constantine for his style of football but also said that the team needs to develop a ‘synchronised’ system that will help them to win matches.

“I have to appreciate everything Mr. (Stephen) Constantine has done with the Indian football team during his stint. To go from 173 (in the FIFA Rankings) to where we are now is not a joke,”

“But, we have to speed up things. Constantine’s strategy was suited to the players he had. But, I would do my best to have more options. When the team is trailing in a match, you cannot continue to defend and we need to create a system where we can go for the win in any kind of situation,” he explained.

When his predecessor – Stephen Constantine - was asked about his back-up plan in case of Sunil Chhetri’s injury, he replied that India need to be ready for life after him. While almost a year has passed since then, the Indian football team seems nowhere close to finding an alternative for their top-scorer.

Stimac also recognized the importance of India’s top goal-scorer as a role model for the young players but he added that every player, including Chhetri, will have to fight for their place in the team.

“Of course, Sunil (Chhetri) is very valuable to our team. He is a role model to these young players who are knocking on the door. He has played so many games, he is so experienced, and has scored so many goals. But just like the others, he needs to fight for a place in the team,” he said.

“We all start from zero. Football is like that. You don’t get paid for the past. You get paid for today’s job. As successful you are today, tomorrow you get your chance once again,” he added.

First Published: May 24, 2019 16:50 IST