The stakeholders of Indian football should come together to find solutions to the problems besieging the national team and the country’s football calendar in general, feels the senior men’s team head coach Igor Stimac.
The former Croatian World Cupper, who is helming the development of the men’s football teams in the country, said that he fears the players will be experiencing burnout as the domestic calendar is cluttered with tournaments which are only adding in quantity and not quality of the game.
While asserting that there should be a minimum of four weeks of training camp for the national team before the start of the Asian Cup in January, Stimac felt that the domestic calendar should be aligned properly keeping in mind the development of the players.
“If we look at the calendar, many players will be busy till the end of June with their national and club duties. The FSDL (marketing partner of All India Football Federation) is planning to start the next ISL in September which would mean that the players will not have adequate rest. This effectively means that we are going from a three-month season to a 14-month season. That’s unacceptable as it will see the players physically falling apart,” Stimac said on the sidelines of the national camp of the upcoming Tri-nation International Football Tournament, which starts in Imphal from Wednesday.
However, in another interaction last June, Stimac noted that a ‘6-8 week’ of break should be adequate recuperation period for footballers.
“We essentially need to find solutions to the fact that extending the number of games does not hurt the quality of the competition. And extending the number of games in a year should contribute to the development of the players and not to kill them, that’s very important,” he added.
With the latest national camp happening for less than a week and the players playing the ISL final getting just one session of training before departure, Stimac said he expects the AIFF to allow enough time for the national camp to allow the players to prepare for the Asian Cup. “We need to have a minimum of four-week preparation prior to the first match (of the Asian Cup). This is needed to concentrate on the pattern of our game, analyse the opponents and prepare a proper game plan,” Stimac said. “We need to see what FSDL is planning and in what way AIFF is ready to support us with the preparation of the Asian Cup. We need to see how many camps we can afford with the budget sanctioned,” he added.
Insisting that the communication between the stakeholders should be more effective, Stimac said that it is essential to find a proper balance. “I feel we need to be organised better to serve the sport as something which is most precious. Now we need to have serious meetings and discussions among the stakeholders regularly and inform the public about the progress,” he said. “The president and secretary general of AIFF are putting enough efforts in the last few months to bring about changes that were long due. They have revived the Santosh trophy which is very important for the state associations. We have seen the reintroduction of the Super Cup, but it should have been planned differently as most of the players will be exhausted after a prolonged ISL season,” was how Stimac put his argument.
The national coach said that the upcoming Tri-Nation tournament will have only two friendly games which will not define anything. “The problem is that the two friendly games will become a tournament with certain restrictions where we can register only 23 players. I had initially planned to have 35 players and use them in batches in the two matches against Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan. But it is not possible now and that puts the players at the risk of getting injured and makes the job very difficult for us,” Stimac said.
Naorem Mahesh of East Bengal and Pritam Kotal of Mohun Bagan SG will be filling in for the list of injuries that is making a few players unavailable for the Tri-nation tournament. “After Sivasakthi (Bengaluru FC) was injured, Ashique Kuruniyan (Mohun Bagan) was invited and now even he is injured after yesterday’s final. We have to keep him out as he is a valuable player for the Indian team. Glan Martins (Mohun Bagan) is also out because of a hamstring injury. In such a situation Naorem Mahesh and Pritam Kotal have been asked to report to the camp. The players left out of this squad will be recalled in May to prove their worth. It is a long term process,” Stimac said about his plans with the National squad.