The All India Football Federation (AIFF) handed over the reins of the Indian senior team to Croatian legend Igor Stimac on Wednesday.
The Technical Committee of the AIFF chaired by former legendary striker Shyam Thapa along with India's recently appointed technical director Doru Isac and Deputy Chairman Henry Menezes conducted detailed interviews with all the four shortlisted candidates namely, Hakan Ericson, Albert Roca, Igor Stimac, Lee Min-Sung.
Thapa explained the rationale behind appointing Igor Stimac and the former East Bengal player minced no words while doing so.
"His (Stimac's) research on Indian football was extensive which was extremely impressive. He knows almost all of our players and has been a keen follower of our domestic leagues. He is himself a legendary footballer. He has played at the top level and in coaching also it helps a lot. He has the right personality to lead a national team," he told Goal.
"Most players are too smart. Most players in the Indian national team are stars and we found in him the right personality who can manage these players. We, the Technical Committee did not want a coach who would be more interested in impressing players," explained Thapa.
Thapa revealed that Stimac made no lofty promises and instead promised to work on improving the basic foundations.
"He (Stimac) did not give us any false hopes. During his interview, he clarified that he would do everything to improve the team both tactically and physically. But also, he asked us to be patient as he is not a magician. We know the standard of Indian football. Let us give him some time, a year or two and then judge him on how good he is.
"Every coach cannot have a 100 per cent success rate everytime, everywhere. He has trained at the highest level and has been successful there," said Thapa, who also believes that the Indian audience should show patience with the new coach.
The former India international heaped praise on Technical Director Doru Isac as well, and said that the Romanian had also supported Stimac's candidature.
"I would also like to talk about our Technical Director Mr. Isac. He is a very knowledgable person. The type questions of that he was asking the four candidates clearly showed that he is a man of knowledge. I found him very impressive. Our TD asked our new coach a variety of questions and after he was impressed, he gave the green light. Isac's opinion was vital in Stimac's appointment."
Stimac guided Croatia to its best ever FIFA ranking at that time and also helped them qualify for World Cup 2014. The tactician likes to set up his team in a 4-4-2 formation but has also occassionally used a three-man defence in a 3-4-2-1 system. It is believed that the coach would show reasonable flexibility as the situation requires while fielding his side in Thailand. However, the Croat has expressed that firstly he wants to concentrate on building a robust defence to avoid conceding.
But Thapa opines that although the team's first concern would be protecting the goal but that would not deter them from going forward at every given opportunity.
"Stimac's philosophy is that we should not concede first. But at the same time, I can assure that our boys will not play defensive from the first minute like they did before. He (Stimac) believes that India is still not on that level to take the game to the Asian giants and therefore, defensive organisation is of prime importance.
"We do not have much time before King's Cup. Now I don't think he will be able to influence the team tactically in such a short period of time. So, it will all depend on how well he motivates. More than the coach, it is upon the players that how much they are willing to give their best on the field and sacrifice for the team. They did well during the Asia Cup and now they should feed on that confidence and do well in Thailand."
Stimac has already announced the list of 37 probables for the upcoming King's Cup and the selection shows that the coach has clearly done his homework on Indian domestic football. Players like Jobby Justin, Michael Soosairaj, Anwar Ali - who shone at the top tier - have been called-up for the national camp from May 20. Now, the onus is on the players to give their all and impress the new coach to book a seat in the flight to Thailand.