‘The national team is not an academy’ – Blue Tigers boss Igor Stimac on finding the next Sunil Chhetri


The India coach touted the Indian Super League and I-League to produce the next frontrunner in attack for India…

India coach Igor Stimac has identified that clubs play a crucial role in developing players for the national team set up.

The Blue Tigers have been particularly troubled with the front line of attack and who will replace Sunil Chhetri once the veteran and all-time Indian international goalscorer will hang his boots.

What was said?

Speaking at a virtual press conference, the Croat remarked, “The national team is not an academy. It benefits from the products in ISL (Indian Super League) and I-League. But where to find someone like Sunil Chhetri?”

It must be noted that the skipper was used conservatively, being given a full 45 minutes after India were reduced to 10 men and a goal down in the game against Qatar in the June 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifiers. 

Sunil Chhetri Bipin Singh India

Chhetri was then subsituted in the last game against Afghanistan when the scoreline was 0-0, after which India assistant Venkatesh Shanmugham had clarified, “It’s the [head] coach’s (Stimac) decision. According to the game, requirement of positions change. That’s all. We were trying to score till the 90th minute, and some players were tired. It happens.”

What else has been said?

The 53-year-old also pointed out that a lot of work needs to be done at the club and academy levels for Indian football to achieve its desired target.

“The fat percentage was 12 which was unacceptable when I took over (in May 2019). Now all of them are around 7.5%. That is exceptional. But they do not have enough games in a calendar. Playing four months of professional we cannot go forward as a country. A season of eight months gives us more competition. To do anything better you need to work more. You need to have more high-quality games. 

Igor Stimac, India practice

“If some players have good passing then they do not have muscle strength or lacks pace. We are lower in muscle mass by eight to nine kilos. There is a difference in pace and understanding of the game. We need good foreign coaches in academies to achieve success as a country,” he said.

Beyond club football

Stimac commented, “Indian football is going forward but we cannot stand still. We need to start speeding up. Once this (Coronavirus) pandemic is over the league will go on for eight-to-10 months and our players will get about 40 games. Then we can expect more from our boys.

“When we speak about the clubs, if clubs are operating only for five months, what is happening with the players for the rest of the months? We need to start thinking about how to organise team work for players who are left out of training sessions for a longer period.”
 

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