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Igor Stimac’s Sacking Sparks Controversy with AIFF’s Strong Rebuttal

In a fiery clash of statements, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Monday accused ousted coach Igor Stimac of tarnishing the reputation of Indian football on an international stage. This followed Stimac’s allegations aimed at the AIFF just days after he was dismissed. The federation claimed that Stimac’s principal aim behind holding a press conference four days post his sacking was to discredit the AIFF.

The AIFF’s statement read, “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 Croatian coach, whose tenure with the Indian men’s football team spanned five turbulent years, was dismissed following India’s failure to advance to the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. In his recent remarks, Stimac had criticized AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey, suggesting that his departure would benefit Indian football. He accused the football administration of curtailing the growth of the sport in the country.

In a detailed rebuttal, the AIFF countered all of Stimac’s major allegations, emphasizing that the federation had diligently catered to his requests. “Mr. Stimac was given full autonomy, including decisions on venues, support staff, and travel days based on his communications with the team manager. The federation facilitated negotiations with clubs and the AIFF’s commercial partner (FSDL) to release players for maximum preparation days, often extending beyond the FIFA window,” the statement outlined.

A prominent contention raised by Stimac pertained to the team’s lack of GPS vests for training. He claimed they had been without these essential pieces of equipment for over 200 days. AIFF refuted this claim, clarifying that the GPS equipment was lost by an airline during team travel in September 2023. The federation made several attempts to recover the baggage to no avail, following which new equipment was ordered and arrived in March 2024, within the necessary legal procedures. The federation emphasized that the team was without the GPS vests for approximately 50 days, not the alleged 200.

Further addressing Stimac’s accusations, the AIFF highlighted that Stimac had falsely claimed he had only four support staff during his tenure. In fact, the Croatian had between 13 to 16 support staff for every camp and tournament.

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. The AIFF added, “For the Asian Cup, he insisted on additional staff, including a goalkeeper coach and a freekick specialist. The AIFF never objected to these demands. It is evident that Mr. Stimac intentionally misrepresented facts to gain sympathy from other nation’s coaches and the AFC, at the reputational cost of India, AIFF, and Indian football.”

Stimac’s accusations also extended to personal grievances, noting the stress from his role had impacted his health. He disclosed undergoing a heart procedure, a claim that shocked the federation. The AIFF remarked, “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. It is fashionable to blame the entire system on the way out, especially when you do not wish to take any personal responsibility.”

The federation also revealed details of Stimac’s contract renewal discussions, stating that the core committee had offered a two-year extension with a significant salary increment from USD 30,000 to USD 40,000 per month. However, Stimac’s legal threats regarding his dues of USD 360,000 – if not cleared within ten days – have added fuel to the ongoing dispute. The AIFF responded by confirming the inclusion of termination clauses favorable to the AIFF in the renewed contract.

Stimac’s contract had initially been renewed in October 2023, when the core committee, led by vice president N A Haris, had approved the offer. The contract included a monthly salary raise to USD 30,000 from February 2024 – January 2025, and to USD 40,000 per month from February 2024 – January 2026, marking considerable financial investment in coaching staff.

In his final media interaction, Stimac alleged that the AIFF’s warnings ahead of the Asian Cup were primarily for his efforts to underscore the significance of the World Cup Qualifiers. He accused AIFF President Chaubey of being the cornerstone of the federation’s failings.

As the saga unfolds, it is clear that the rift between Stimac and the AIFF is far from being bridged. The federation continues to stand by its decision while Stimac’s accusations paint a grim picture of Indian football administration. The next few weeks might see further developments, potentially in legal arenas, as both sides hold firm to their narratives.