AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
Panaji : India plays Afghanistan in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification in Dushanbe, Tajikistan today and the result will be a reflection on the way Igor Stimac will be taking football forward. Igor was appointed on May 15, 2019 and since then the wheat has not been separated from the chaff. The signs are not ominous.
India does not need to be wary of Afghanistan because the former has won six matches out of the eight matches between the two, drawn one and lost the other. Statistics is not a concern but the way forward for football in India is and that is best seen in the manner beauty is perceived in football.
Football has not grown substantially in India after the advent of the Indian Super League (ISL) and former coach Stephen Constantine’s last match mirrored this fact. And, since Igor has taken over, the change has been as subtle as it was before. Time is the only variant.
India’s progress in the qualification so far has been abysmal. One defeat, one lucky goalless draw and another patented by providence. India needs to start winning and maintain the winning streak to have a semblance of a chance to qualify and the match today against Afghanistan and the other, in a few days against Oman, should suffice to indicate how Igor has begun.
Igor is not here to plant seeds. He is here to pluck the fruits from our youth development system and the only fruits available as of now are from the I-league and not the ISL. Yet, marketing is attempting to blow the winds towards the latter. It does not really matter because in the end it is how football is played that
Igor began his stint by giving debut to six players and it is interesting that from these six, two were from Goa and one could consider himself lucky. Igor claims that his selection was done on the videos of the previous season provided to him. The choice has been his and the responsibility is therefore his.
Igor has complained about the lack of time he has had with the boys and was at one stage arraigned by the organisers of ISL. The coach did not react and it left the complainant looking small.
At the end of his six months, Igor will have reason to say that he is yet to see the best in this country because the I-league is yet to start and many of the best play for teams in the I-league. At least, most that are part of the ISL now were part of the I-league at some point of time or the other and so, the flow will continue.
India drew with Qatar when Gurdeep was at his best and India held back Bangladesh when Adil Khan needed to step out of his boots to fill the void created by Sandeep Jhingan’s absence. Udanta Singh is taking sublime shape and so are Rahul Bheke and Nishu kumar. They need to come out of the shadows of Sunil Chhetri who cannot be expected to carry the onus always.
Noted TV commentator Novy Kapadia recently claimed that he had evidence of boys being asked by player’s agents to sign for ISL on a promise that they would be selected to play for India. Igor is in India to further his career by taking football, in India, the furthest he can and he can go the farthest by keeping his eyes on the best.
The result against Afghanistan will not mirror how far Igor has taken football in India in his first six months but, it will surely indicate how far he is capable of taking football in the two years he has at the helm.