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AIFF Fires Back at Former Coach Igor Stimac’s Allegations

In a lengthy statement issued on Monday, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) vehemently defended itself against a series of allegations made by ousted men’s team head coach Igor Stimac. The federation accused Stimac of attempting to malign the Indian football fraternity on international platforms, asserting that his complaints and excuses were characteristic of his stormy five-year tenure.

The AIFF’s statement came in response to a press conference held by Stimac four days after his dismissal. The federation claimed that the sole intent of his press conference was to tarnish its reputation. “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 statement declared.

Stimac, who took over the reins in 2019 after the departure of Stephen Constantine, did not hold back in his criticism of AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey. He suggested that Chaubey’s immediate departure would be beneficial for the future of Indian football. “Indian football is imprisoned,” Stimac claimed, blaming Chaubey for many of the country’s football woes. He accused the federation of stifling the sport’s growth, pointing to a lack of strategic long-term planning and operational inefficiencies.

In response, the AIFF firmly rejected Stimac’s accusations, emphasizing the autonomy and support granted to him throughout his tenure. “Mr. Stimac was given full autonomy to function, including the selection of venues, support staff, and travel arrangements as per his communication with the team manager,” the federation said in its defense. “Every specific request, especially for various support staff of his choice, was backed by the AIFF in the interest of the national team.”

The federation elaborated on the extent of its support, explaining the negotiations with clubs and its commercial partner, Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL), to ensure players were released for training periods that extended beyond the official FIFA windows. Despite these efforts, the team’s inability to progress to the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers led to Stimac’s dismissal.

One of Stimac’s more contentious claims centered on the supposed lack of essential training equipment. He alleged that the team had been forced to train without GPS vests for over 200 days, a significant issue for tracking player performance.

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. Addressing this accusation, the AIFF explained that the GPS equipment was lost by the airline during transit from New Delhi to Hangzhou in September 2023 for the Asian Games. “These are expensive gadgets, and multiple attempts were made to recover the baggage without success,” the federation stated. New devices were subsequently ordered and arrived in March 2024. “While it is true that the team did not have access to the GPS vests for approximately 50 days of training and match play, the coach’s statement that GPS equipment was not available for over 200 days is obviously misleading and an attempt to exaggerate the matter for effect.”

Stimac threatened legal action, demanding the AIFF clear his outstanding dues of USD 360,000 within 10 days or face a lawsuit in the FIFA Tribunal. In response, the AIFF noted that when his contract was set for renewal in October 2023, the federation’s core committee proposed a two-year contract with a monthly salary of USD 30,000 starting January 2024. However, the executed contract included a provision for a salary increase to USD 40,000 per month from February 2024 to January 2026 without the Core Committee’s approval. “The specific instructions regarding inserting termination clauses favorable to AIFF were also not followed before executing the contract. However, certain clauses for termination for cause were retained in the contract,” the AIFF elaborated.

Adding to the controversy, Stimac claimed that the strains and stresses associated with Indian football had adversely affected his health, necessitating a medical procedure to treat a heart condition. The AIFF expressed surprise at this claim, casting doubt on its credibility. “It is ironic that someone who was the prime person controlling the fortunes of the national team considers that Indian football is imprisoned and has not grown,” the federation remarked. “It is fashionable to blame the entire system on the way out, especially when you do not wish to take any personal responsibility.”

The AIFF also countered claims regarding Stimac’s portrayal of Indian football at the 3rd AFC National Coaches Conference in Malaysia. They contended that Stimac misrepresented facts, stating he had only four support staff when, in reality, he was provided with a contingent of 13 to 16 support staff for every camp and tournament, including additional personnel for the Asian Cup.

The ongoing saga between the AIFF and Stimac underscores the fractious relationships and challenges within Indian football’s governing framework. As both parties exchange accusations, the future direction of Indian football remains uncertain, casting a shadow over the progress and development of the beloved sport in the country.