The coronavirus pandemic has halted sports activities all around the globe but Indian football team coach Igor Stimac said this pandemic is a “perfect opportunity for India to dramatically change” their domestic football structure.

Although the 2019-’20 Indian Super League season witnessed an extension to its previous schedule, Stimac has called for a longer domestic season to be implemented as it would improve the quality of the Indian team. India is currently ranked 108 in the Fifa rankings.

Stimac said a long-term domestic calendar needs to be introduced alongside the Super Cup and the Durand Cup although he has learnt it cannot take place as the ISL will clash with the Indian Premier League.

“We have been working behind closed doors on many aspects. One is regarding the selection of players. We have been talking to the government to change the citizenship regulations. We were also in touch with FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited) to increase the length of the season and also to have a long-term calendar season plus the need to restructure the Durand Cup and the Super Cup,” Stimac said in an interview with WION.

“Going forward what will be crucial is the number of games. We cannot stop our season at the end of February and football needs to be played until mid-May. I am told that it cannot happen as it overlaps with the broadcast of the IPL but broadcast is not important, what is important is that players play more games to improve their football and bring more quality to the national team,” he added.

‘Foreign players of Indian origin can change results dramatically’

Stimac also raised concerns over the number of foreign players in the league with AlFF’s Technical Committee recommending the ISL and the I-League to follow the guidelines of the Asian Football Confederation and stick to the the 3+1 foreigner’s rule from the 2021-’22 season.

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He requested the AIFF to work with the government and introduce new regulations so that foreign-based footballers of Indian origin can represent the national team, which would change the results for the Blue Tigers dramatically.

“I am feeling depressed and tired at repeatedly saying we have to reduce the number of foreign players in Indian domestic football. It will take time to grow up as a football nation, the season has to be longer for players to play much more games than now. If the government can change the citizenship regulations, then we can get seven-eight players of Indian origin who are playing abroad and that would change our results dramatically,” he said.

Stimac, who was appointed as coach in May last year, said he is building a team for the future by introducing younger players with technical abilities to play possession football.

The Croatian also rued India’s poor performance during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, where Sunil Chhetri and Co failed to pick up a single win from their group, saying the lack of experience and charismatic decisions affected their games.

“I am excited even much more than before after 12 months as India coach. We have proved that we can change many things in such a short time. The task was not easy to change from a kick and chase football to a more possession-based football. We have introduced many young players with more technical abilities. It was not easy and we knew we were going to suffer but this was the only way to stabilise the results in the future,” Stimac said.

“We are building a new team which should achieve its high level in the next 4-5 years. We have 25 players who are between 18-23 years old. I am not happy with regards to the results as we were expecting some more points from the Qualification tournament. Looking back we did not take our opportunities. I thought we could surprise Oman but lack of experience and lack of charismatic decisions on the field cost us. India is no longer the team that loses easy games, but we are not scoring enough goals,” he added.