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AIFF Defends Stimac’s Dismissal Amidst Allegations and Counterclaims

In a detailed rebuttal on Monday, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) accused former coach Igor Stimac of attempting to tarnish the reputation of Indian football in international forums, asserting that his tenure was marred by repeated excuses and failures. The AIFF’s statement came four days after Stimac was sacked, adding weight to the federation’s claim that his sole intention in holding a press conference was to malign the AIFF.

“This conduct (by Stimac) has only reinforced the AIFF’s belief that the right decision was made, with just cause, to terminate his contract and move forward in the interests of Indian football,” the AIFF said decisively.

The AIFF countered the litany of allegations made by the Croatian World Cupper against its president Kalyan Chaubey and its operational practices. Stimac had previously lashed out at Chaubey, stating that the future of Indian football would be brighter without him.

The AIFF categorically dismissed Stimac’s accusations. “Mr. Stimac was given full autonomy to function, including the selection of venues, support staff, and travel days as per his communication with the team manager. His specific requests, especially for various support staff of his choice, were always supported by the AIFF in the interests of the national team. The AIFF negotiated with clubs and FSDL (AIFF’s commercial partner), to have players released, to give the coach maximum days for preparation, often beyond the FIFA window,” the federation clarified.

Stimac was dismissed following the team’s failure to advance to the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. Criticizing his former employers, he had accused AIFF of “imprisoning” Indian football and singled out Chaubey for the myriad issues plaguing the sport.

Responding, the AIFF detailed, “Except for the request for a charter flight to Abha, Saudi Arabia, for which he was informed in a timely manner about the logistical challenges, every other demand of his was met.”

Addressing Stimac’s claim that the team had to train without GPS vests for over 200 days, the AIFF clarified, “Mr. Stimac is aware that the team’s GPS equipment was lost by the airline in transit during the team’s travel in September 2023 from New Delhi to Hangzhou for the Asian Games. Multiple attempts were made to recover the baggage without success. When it became apparent that recovery was unlikely, new devices were ordered and arrived in India in March 2024 after completing necessary procedural formalities.”

The federation said that the vests were quickly made available for the critical leg of the FIFA World Cup qualifier. “While it is true that the team did not have access to the GPS vests for approximately 50 days, the coach’s statement that they were unavailable for over 200 days is misleading and an exaggeration for effect,” the AIFF asserted.

Igor Stimac had been appointed as the head coach following Stephen Constantine’s departure in the summer of 2019.

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. In his last media interaction, the 56-year-old revealed he had received a final warning before the Asian Cup for trying to convince the AIFF of the importance of the World Cup Qualifiers.

The AIFF counter-argued, stating that Stimac often misrepresented facts to gain sympathy, as evidenced during his attendance at the 3rd AFC National Coaches Conference in Malaysia between May 7-9. The federation highlighted that “Mr. Stimac publicly stated that he had only four support staff as the coach of India’s Senior Men’s National Team. However, it is well known that Mr. Stimac always had a contingent of between 13 to 16 support staff for every camp and tournament.”

“For the Asian Cup, he insisted on having an additional goalkeeper coach and a freekick specialist. The AIFF never objected to these additional demands. It is evident that Mr. Stimac intentionally misrepresented facts to garner sympathy from other coaches and the AFC, at the reputational cost of India, the AIFF, and Indian football,” the statement noted.

Following his dismissal, Stimac threatened to file a lawsuit against the AIFF in the FIFA Tribunal if his outstanding dues (USD 360,000) were not settled within 10 days. The federation disclosed that during contract renewal discussions in October 2023, the AIFF’s core committee proposed offering Stimac a two-year contract with a monthly salary of USD 30,000 from January 2024. The legal team was instructed to finalize a contract with “termination clause favorable to AIFF.”

However, the federation noted certain lapses, “The executed contract provides for a raise to USD 30,000 per month from February 2024 to January 2025 and USD 40,000 per month from February 2024 to January 2026, even without core committee approval for the latter amount. Specific instructions regarding favorable termination clauses were not followed before executing the contract, though certain termination-for-cause clauses were retained.”

Addressing Stimac’s statement about the stress affecting his health, requiring him to undergo a procedure for a heart condition, the AIFF expressed shock. “It is ironic that someone primarily responsible for the national team’s fortunes considers that Indian football is imprisoned and has not grown. It is fashionable to blame the system when you do not wish to take personal responsibility,” the federation concluded.

With input from agencies, the AIFF’s rebuttal represents a comprehensive defense against the claims made by the ousted coach, insinuating that Stimac’s actions post-dismissal only served to validate the decision to terminate his tenure.