Igor Stimac press conference on Friday to be a stormy affair

Igor Stimac addressing a press-conference
Igor Stimac addressing a press-conference (Source: AIFF)

Press conferences are generally routine events. Hardly do we get a real headline from it, with most players or coaches wanting to be politically correct. Not this Friday, June 21. From what Revsportz has learnt, at 2pm on Friday, it could be a stormy affair with former head coach Igor Stimac all set to address the press and put out a point by point report against the AIFF in what all has happened in the last one year.

Outgoing coach Stimac will also address the contentious issue of his job contract plus how and why the termination clause was done away with, and by who. Sources close to the coach confirm that he is willing to go down, but not alone. He is clear that he alone cannot be made the scapegoat and be blamed. Rather, it is an issue of collective failure with the AIFF (All India Football Federation) an equal party to all the decision making. Stimac has made all preparations to fight the legal battle, unless the AIFF clears his dues within a week. If this turns legal, it could be a prolonged battle in courts of law.

While Stimac has words of praise for the Indian players and fans and is grateful to them, he is clear that for Indian football to progress, the management (AIFF) has to get better with immediate effect. This press conference, planned for 2pm (IST) on Friday, could well be a volatile one. It could well add more to the ongoing atmosphere of negativity and mistrust that has enveloped the sport.

Further, the press conference comes at a time when there is a ‘post’ doing the rounds over the last few days stating there is no title sponsor for the ISL. I have been forwarded this ‘post’ by at least 15 people. While it is a sad reflection on the state of Indian football, it is a timely reminder to act right now. While we note that the Afghanistan cricket team is all set to lock horns with India tonight in Barbados in the ICC T20 World Cup, it has an Indian sponsor. So, the football mess at home is worse, vis a vis sponsors not being on board. Even the US team which played South Africa on Wednesday night in Antigua is sponsored by Amul. And yet, India’s premier football competition doesn’t have a sponsor.

Igor Stimac (Photo: AIFF)

Is this about lack of interest in the sport? Or is it a collective failure that Indian football has not been marketed well? In the absence of a title sponsor, the sheen has been robbed. And that’s where we need to do better. Corporates who have invested in US cricket, for example, need to be approached, asking them to invest in Indian football.

One thing is certain, Indian football has a serious emotional connect. Stimac’s somewhat emotional tweet went viral on Wednesday. It is proof that the Indian football community isn’t small. And that’s what makes me question why we aren’t able to market the sport better. Why is it that Indian corporates don’t come forward to sponsor a tournament as relevant as the ISL?

Is it because issues like sacking Igor Stimac have created immense negativity around the sport? Is it the failure to make it to the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers? Now that the corporates know nothing much can happen in the next four years, will they invest in Olympic sports rather than Indian football? The truth is, there are no definitive answers to any of these questions.

What we do have is answers for is what’s going on between the AIFF and sacked coach Stimac. At the moment, we are in for a legal battle with neither side willing to back off. While Stimac fired a salvo on Tuesday, threatening to take the AIFF to court, sources in the AIFF say the President and the EC are very well capable of dealing with a potential legal situation and are ready.

They also say that these legal issues were discussed before the termination notice was sent. So, it is not as if the AIFF has been caught off guard. Former footballers, however, aren’t convinced. They think that the AIFF acted in a rush and have landed themselves in a tricky situation. “They should have asked for a report and called Stimac over for a dialogue. You don’t sack your head coach like this. You sit down across the table and find a way forward”, said a former star on condition of anonymity.

No player, however, is willing to come on record. Yes, all eyes are now on the Stimac press conference. Will the former head coach provide proof that could well take down some in the AIFF senior management or will it be a damp squib? Either way, it could have a telling impact on Indian football, going forward.