India football coach Igor Stimac’s comments on the lack of time with the national players before the World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan and Oman in November owing to the running of the Indian Super League (ISL) has not gone down well with Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) – the organisers of the ISL.
A senior FSDL official said that the organisers had a discussion with not just Stimac, but also Indian team director Abhishek Yadav on releasing players early in October to ensure that they could strategise for the World Cup qualifiers well in advance as postponing the fourth round of the ISL in November wasn’t viable.
“Not just before the Bangladesh match, but even after the match, Stimac told selective media that he wants the fourth round of the ISL to be postponed so that he can have the players. But what he isn’t mentioning is that in the month of August there was a meeting between FSDL, Abhishek and Stimac. And it was discussed and agreed upon that since the ISL schedule is out and a lot of planning goes into the whole process of organising games like broadcasting, booking of stadiums and lodging of players, it is not possible to give a longer break before the November games and FIFA rules will be followed.”
“Even then, we reworked the schedule in such a way that our fourth round ends on November 10 and the fifth round starts on November 23. After all, nothing is more important for us than the national team. Also, as decided in the August meeting, we had pushed the clubs to release the players well in advance before the Bangladesh game. This was done to give the Indian team management a longer run with the footballers in October to strategise for the qualifiers. The clubs also understood and released the players by October 3. And after all that, we get to hear such stuff from the coach at a pre-match presser,” the official rued.
What has hurt FSDL more is that they believe the new coach has now done a U-Turn even though he was well aware of the whole planning.
“The planning was done as per the understanding of the two parties. It is unfortunate that the coach decided to make such a statement in a pre-match press conference wherein the focus should have been on the game at hand. Then again, just because the result against Bangladesh wasn’t as per expectation, he again told select media that he was worried. You can’t change the stand after having a meeting and agreeing to the earlier plan. We take strong objection to this statement by the national coach as he was given a clear picture and all plans were made keeping him in the loop,” the official pointed.
Speaking on the eve of the Bangladesh game, Stimac said: “I am very worried about the November camp. We are going to try everything possible to find a way with ISL people as it does not look promising for us right now.”
The FSDL official further said that even if Stimac was worried and wanted a re-jig of plans after the draw against Bangladesh, he should have spoken to the organisers rather than approaching the media.
“Media isn’t the platform to have such conversations. He could have reached out to us. But this approach of the coach and the national director is unprofessional,” the official said.