The search for the next coach of the Indian men’s national team has now come to a conclusion. The AIFF (All India Football Federation) announced the appointment of Igor Stimac on Wednesday after he was recommended by the Technical Committee.
Igor Stimac, Albert Roca, Lee Min-sung and Hakan Georg Ericson were the four names vying for the position vacated by Stephen Constantine with each candidate bringing something different to the table.At a time when India is desperately trying to break into the top 10 of Asian football, the men’s national team needs a coach with an experience at the highest level of international football.
Experience of previously handling World Cup or continental level qualifying campaigns took greater precedence over prior involvement in Indian football when selecting the new coach.
Having prior Indian experience is something that was never a criteria for the job as the AIFF had never put that down as an essential qualification in the job description.
"We want to progress and qualify and compete in Asia. We want someone who's seen the highest level and try to take us closer to that. For that, we need a coach who has a bigger profile. We are not looking to compete in the I-League or the ISL and this is why Indian football experience was never really a criterion in the job description. Yes, if you fulfill all the other criteria and then have experience in India, it is an added bonus. But Indian football experience, on its own, was never a criterion for applying nor is it one for recommendation," said a senior member of the AIFF Technical Committee to Goal.
This is where Stimac scores big with the former central defender having experience at the highest level both as a player and subsequently as coach.
Stimac and Slaven Bilic were crucial defensive pillars of the Croatian team which made it all the way to the semi-final of the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. Years later, Stimac would succeed Bilic as Croatia’s coach before taking charge of the team’s 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Similarly, South Korea’s Lee Min-sung participated in two FIFA World Cups as a player before transitioning to a coaching career. The 45-year-old does have coaching experience at the national team level although it has come with South Korea’s U23 squad.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Ericson has no national team experience as a player but has spent several years coaching the country’s youth teams. Ericson has now been involved with Sweden’s U21 side since 2009 and also took charge of the national team’s 2016 Rio Olympics campaign.
Roca’s national team experience is limited to assisting Frank Rijkaard with Saudi Arabia for two years before taking over the reins at El Salvador in 2014-15.
When it comes to his experience in Indian football, it is important to remember that he had the luxury of working with plenty of overseas, especially, Spanish players during his time at Bengaluru. Working solely with Indian players is an entirely different matter and is in no way comparable to his stint with Bengaluru.
Having prior experience in Indian football is all well and good and never a bad thing. But it was never mentioned in the criteria for the next coach of the national team. While many would have been surprised that Stimac was chosen, it was in fact no surprise to the people involved because Indian football experience was never a part of the job description.