Last week, the Indian football team accomplished one of its all-time great feats by qualifying for the Asian Cup for the second consecutive year for the first time in history.
After a poor 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualification campaign, the Blue Tigers won all three games in the continental event’s qualification against Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong to storm into next year’s flagship event.
With the huge accomplishment under his belt, Indian football team head coach Igor Stimac urged for fundamental reforms in the way the sport is organised in the nation.
The Croatian encouraged sports officials to separate the football calendar from cricket and the Indian Premier League (IPL). Football, according to the head coach, should not suffer as a result of cricket.
“The football calendar can’t depend on, for example, the IPL and broadcast-related issues. India is blessed to have a sport as popular as cricket but shouldn’t be afraid to have another sport becoming as popular. Football shouldn’t suffer because of cricket. Cricket shouldn’t fear football,” said Stimac in a press conference.
He encouraged the AIFF to make decisions in the best interests of the national team. “Only the national team, not the ISL, can make fans fall in love with football,” he continued.
Further discussing concerns impacting Indian football, Stimac stated that the football season should be extended. He suggested that footballers should not take pauses longer than 6-8 weeks. The ISL season is, of course, at stake.
“The problem here is people are busy with their own project. India needs a longer season with more games. Like for 10-11 months. Young players need to be nurtured and players should get a six-week holiday.
“That is enough for them if we want to become the best team in Asia. The calendar of football should not depend on broadcast and other things. Our players need to play at least 50 matches.”
“The ISL has to be bigger. There should be at least 18 teams with promotion and relegation. There is too much comfort here for the footballers, they should face much more challenges.
“Nothing can get better with such a short league. If we compare ourselves with bigger footballing nations in Asia, then we are lagging eight to 10 years behind. The domestic structure has to get better to catch up with others,” said the bronze medallist at the 1998 World Cup!