The I-League has been locked in a constant battle against the All India Football Federation over the future roadmap of Indian football with talks about the Indian Super League being given the top-tier status in the country over the existing structure.

I-League clubs in April pulled out of the Super Cup shortly after receiving no response from AIFF President Praful Patel over their future. The tussle has put Indian football under the spotlight. However, newly-appointed India head coach Igor Stimac called for better communication between the two parties to sort out the ongoing issue.

“We are allowed to dream. But hard work needs to be put along with that dream. There are certain problems between leagues, organisation. Everything can be sorted if we communicate,” he said in his first press conference as India coach.

“I-League has something that ISL can’t have – tradition. You can’t buy tradition. The Indian Super League is more competitive stuff. I-League is where the new young players are. It’s good for me. I am not going to say how it will work. But my opinion will be there. Any conflict is not helping,” he added.

Newly appointed technical director Isac Doru also echoed the same views also called for a more collective approach to be taken into consideration.

“The situation of the leagues is not a conflict or war. It’s about being together. We need a positive environment and the right quality and quantity of matches. The way the games are played is important,” he said.

“India is a dynamic nation and we need to discuss and implement plans to play as a country. We need to make a national-level concept and we have a strategic plan chalked out, which we will start implementing,” Doru added.

Planning for the future

India must work towards a ‘synchronised, possession-based philosophy’ to perform and progress in international football, Doru said.

“We have to learn from the past. We have to discuss, find the solution and implement the same as a nation. We have to chalk out our principles and work towards a synchronised, possession-based philosophy. I have already sat with different coaches and now I’ll invite the players who played in the 70s,” Doru said.

According to him, the Indians are the ‘best dancers’ in the world, using the analogy to describe their agility and athleticism, prerequisites for becoming successful footballer, besides technical skills.

“What I feel is that Indians are very agile. What we need to improve is the coaching system and coach education. Say, in one game, there are 128 attacking actions and in another game, there are only 20. Which one will the fan like? India is a fast, dynamic nation and we need to focus on that,” Doru said.

“It’s one of the principles and that’s what we should implement across age-groups, especially, the golden age-group comprising U-8s, U-10s and U-12s.”

Doru was appointed last month, picked from a list of over 60 candidates who had applied for the post. The 56-year-old comes with a rich experience of almost 29 years in international football across several countries including France, Japan, USA, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Qatar among others.

“We have laid down the strategic plan for the next four years and all of us including Igor (Stimac), other age-group National team coaches, club coaches, and former players have to sit down and discuss how we should move forward,” he said.

Focus on defence

Stimac, who was part of Croatia’s squad that finished third in the 1998 World Cup in France, is conducting a training camp for the national team probables in preparation for the King’s Cup in Thailand.

“We speak every day. I speak with all our players every day. That’s my approach. I need to do that. I need to get information from them,” Stimac said.

“Of course, Sunil (Chhetri) is very valuable to our team. He is a role model to these young players who are knocking on the door. He has played so many games, he is so experienced, and has scored so many goals. But as well as others, he needs to fight for a place in the team.

“We all start from zero. Football is like that. You don’t get anything for the past. You get paid for today’s job. As successful you are today, tomorrow you get your chance once again.”

With less than two weeks to go for Stimac’s first assignment, he said that he was concerned about the defence, and the lack of options, particularly at centre-back.

“Over the next few months, my job will be to find more competitors for the centre-back position, which we are short on right now,” Stimac said.

The 37-man preliminary squad, which is undergoing a camp at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, will be pruned to 23, by the time the team leaves for Thailand on June 1.

“In the next few days I have to decide on 25-26 players from this squad who will be the most valuable for this competition (King’s Cup) and after that, the squad will be cut to 23.”

Stimac, who replaced Stephen Constantine as head coach, had signed a two-year contract after beating more than 250 applicants for the post. His first assignment will be the King’s Cup in June that will be held in Thailand.

Speaking about the probables for the national team selected by him, the Croatian said: “There are many young players knocking on the door of the senior team and I see a great chance to keep improving the team, get results. I am happy with the quality I have seen and together, we can do great things.”

(With PTI inputs)