New Delhi: Igor Stimac, the newly-appointed head coach of the Indian men's football team, acknowledged the fact that there needs to be a system in place for the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League clubs to exist and function.
India currently has two parallel top-division leagues running -- ISL and I-League -- and the development of recent events has been such that, there is a friction between the I-League clubs and All India Football Federation (AIFF).
According to the I-League clubs, they are treated differently as compared to the ISL teams and wrote to AIFF president Praful Patel seeking clarification about their future and a variety of other matters pertaining to Indian football. However, Patel is yet to hold a meeting with them.
During the tenure of the previous men's team coach Stephen Constantine, there was also controversy around selection, where many felt that I-League players were being ignored.
New coach Stimac made it clear that it is not in his job profile to get into the matter between the clubs and the federation but he is here to make suggestions and he would like to help create a better environment.
"ISL is privatised and whoever is investing there expects to gain something, which is only normal. I-League, on the other hand, has been there for a number of years and has something that ISL can't buy - tradition.
"We have to find ways to help I-League clubs speed up in terms of functioning and also bring some tradition to ISL that is currently nowhere to be seen," Stimac said in his first press conference since being appointed.
On the other hand, AIFF Technical Director Isac Doru was a little more diplomatic with his words and said he is more focussed on developing the quality of Indian football rather than the quantity.
"From the outside and from what I read in the media before coming here, there seemed to be a lot of conflict but that is not the case on the inside. Within the AIFF, there is no differentiation between the two leagues. Media makes it look bigger. For me the most important thing is to have the quality and not quantity. If players' work rate is very high in one game, that is more important. That's how we make comparisons with the global game. We are here to better the quality and for that, it is important to have an organised setup - from the top division and the second division to junior league and grassroots."
STIMAC ON THE NATIONAL TEAM
Stimac, who has now spent a few days with the squad in the capital, said he has seen a few things and he is due to develop a system around it to work with the team.
Stimac said that the first thing he did was to assess the physical condition of the all the squad players, since it is the off-season.
"Now I'll plan on how much intensity I can put in the training since we do not need any injuries at this point.
"I don't have much time but I have to decide in a couple of days about which players are going to stay at the national camp and then early in June, I will announce my final squad for the King's Cup.
"From what I can say right now, the players are in good condition and I am satisfied with most after I did agility and endurance tests on them. Now I need to devise plans to work on their technical aspect and how we want to play the game," Stimac said.
He further pointed out a few things he found lacking in the team according to the matches he saw and the first things he will be working on.
"I have seen there is a lack of concentration on players and also lack of tactical knowledge. Because of concentration issues, we have conceded goals at times. Another thing that I noticed was that the boys weren't good on the second ball, something that is of utmost importance in modern football. I will be working on that. Players need to concentrate and develop agility and speed. Of course they need to have heart - we need lions and tigers there.
"The defence is the first problem I am facing. I need to find more quality and competitors there."
Stimac also gave his views on India's most experienced player Sunil Chhetri and said that despite his contribution, he will also have to fight for his place in the team.
"I speak to all my players everyday. Sunil is valuable and an inspiration to the younger ones. He brings with himself a lot of experience but like others, he needs to fight for the spot. I expect not only Sunil but Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu, goalkeeper) and (Sandesh) Jhingan (defender) to be role models as kids look up to them. I am happy with their behaviour so far."
THE VISION FOR INDIAN FOOTBALL
Igor Stimac was quick to appreciate the work his predecessor Constantine did with the team saying he was "defensive but adapted with the players he had."
"I will do my best to have more options. If we are behind, we can't sit back and defend, we need to find ways to win games and change the system if need be. Things won't change overnight but I see the capacity and I will work with the players for the same," Stimac added.
Doru, on the other hand, spoke about develop a singular style of play across verticals in the country. He said that there needs to be a national game model in place, which is synchronised football.
"I am not here to criticise the past but learn from it. When we talk about national model, it's not about Igor and Isac. I have spoken to different coaches in the country about how we want to play as a nation. I won't only talk to the coaches but also the players from the 70s, when the quality of Indian football was immense.
"There is passion and there is a need to just be a bit updated with the coaching and develop a core philosophy. I want to create that synchronised footballing environment from top to bottom. It will be done as soon as possible and I will need technic people to create that environment."
THE WORLD CUP DREAM
Every other year, Indian footballing officials express the confidence and dream of reaching the World Cup, even as India fails to cement a spot in the top 10 in Asia.
Chhetri, in several interviews, has mentioned that India first needs to be one of the top teams in Asia consistently and then only dream about the World Cup.
Both Stimac and Doru said World Cup is definitely a dream and a major objective of every nation and it should be but there's a lot of work needed behind it too.
"If I tell you now that we'll go to the World Cup, it will be nonsense but the seeds are there. Football is not new to India and this country was one of the top teams in Asia in the 70s and you should be proud of that. I'm sure sooner or later if we work hard from the grassroot level, we can reach that objective. We only need organisation and work hard towards it with belief," Doru said.
Stimac spoke about the willingness and hard work with all stakeholders to achieve the dream.
"There are problems with the league and the organisation but it is communication can solve the problem and I am here to help with that. My job is not just selection but many other things, including talking to the managers and setting up a line of communication."