AIFF statement as reaction to Igor Stimac allegations!

The All India Football Federation has come out with an official statement as a reaction to the allegations from former India head coach Igor Stimac.

The AIFF Statement

We have noted the comments made by Mr. Igor Stimac, former Head Coach of the National Team, to the media last week. Mr. Stimac’s communication – apparently made with the sole intent of maligning the AIFF and showing its personnel in poor light – is not befitting of a professional who has served the organisation for over 5 years and was extended the full support of the AIFF during this period. This conduct 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.

While we do not believe it is appropriate to enter into a debate, or indulge in a series of responses and counter-allegations with Mr. Stimac. However, it is important that there is an accurate public record of certain matters raised in Mr. Stimac’s communication. We, therefore, take this opportunity to clarify these here.

The current leadership of the AIFF took office in September 2022, at which time Mr. Stimac had already been in the position for over 3 years. When his contract came up for renewal in October 2023, the Core Committee of the AIFF, under the chairmanship of Vice President Mr. N A Haris, met in advance and proposed to the AIFF that Mr. Stimac could be offered a two-year contract with a monthly salary of US$ 30,000 from January 2024 and to instruct the legal team to finalise the contract ‘with a termination clause favourable to AIFF’. The then Secretary General and AIFF legal consultant negotiated and finalised and the then Secretary General signed the contract with Mr. Stimac. The executed contract provides for a salary raise to US$ 30,000 per month from February 2024-January 2025 (as approved by the Core Committee) and US$40,000 per month from February 2025-January 2026 (without Core Committee approval for the said amount). The specific instructions regarding inserting termination clauses favourable to AIFF were also not followed before executing the contract. However, certain clauses for termination for cause were retained in the contract.

During his tenure, Mr. Stimac was provided complete support by the AIFF. The AIFF President had 5 meetings with him in 18 months (Kolkata National Camp – September 2022; Bengaluru SAFF Championship – July 2023; Hangzhou(China) – September 2023; Kolkata – March 2024 and Guwahati – March 2024). Mr. Stimac was never denied access to any AIFF official, and had several virtual and telephonic conversations with them during his tenure. Mr. Stimac was given full autonomy to function, including selections of venues, support staff, choice of 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. Except the request for a charter flight to Abha, Saudi Arabia, for which he was informed in a timely manner of the logistical challenges of providing the same, every other demand of his was met. With respect to the unavailability of GPS vests, Mr. Stimac is aware that the team’s GPS equipment was lost by the airline in transit during team’s travel in September 2023 from New Delhi to Hangzhou for the Asian Games. Mr. Stimac, himself being part of the travel contingent and with the Team Manager reporting to him during team travel, was well aware of the incident and the cause of it. These are expensive gadgets and multiple attempts were made to recover the baggage without avail. When it became clear that recovery was unlikely, new devices were ordered and arrived in India in March 2024 after completion of essential procedural formalities. The vests were immediately made available to the team for the all-important leg of the FIFA World Cup qualifier starting from day one of the Bhubaneshwar camp, i.e. 10th May 2024 onwards. While it is true that the team did not have access to the GPS vests for approximately 50 days of training and match play due to their unfortunate loss in checked-in baggage, 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.

The AIFF also chose to ignore various misdeeds and negative statements of the coach over time, of which there are too many to traverse, only to ensure that India’s preparation for FIFA World Cup qualifiers were not hampered. The new AIFF leadership was shocked to note his dependence on an astrologer to determine player’s call ups, team selections and took immediate necessary action to end the same. His selection of support staff had also gone unquestioned and was the subject of disquiet among many players. Despite all the support, the coach always sought to deflect blame and according to him everything and everyone else was wrong and responsible for any given situation except himself. This sentiment was also shared by various players who had brought their concerns regarding Mr. Stimac’s coaching style and tactics to the attention of the AIFF on multiple occasions.

A few recent incidents are emblematic of Mr. Stimac’s conduct and attitude towards the AIFF. Mr. Stimac was representing AIFF and India at the 3rd AFC National Coaches Conference held in Malaysia between 7-9 May 2024 in the presence of the AFC, its member associations and their national coaches. In his interaction with the AFC officials and the hosts, Mr. Stimac publicly stated that he had only four (4) support staff as the coach of India’s Senior Men’s National Team. His answer evoked a response of disbelief and raised many eyebrows. It is well known that Mr. Stimac always had a contingent of between 13 to 16 support staff for every camp and tournament. In fact, for the Asian Cup, he insisted on having an additional goalkeeper coach and a freekick specialist. The AIFF never objected to these additional demands, providing whatever support he sought. 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, the AIFF and Indian football. Mr. Stimac’s motivations for denigrating the federation and the nation he operates in must only be surmised.

In early June 2024, just three (3) days prior to the match against Kuwait in Kolkata, the AIFF received a legal notice from Mr. Stimac’s lawyer alleging that the AIFF had breached his contract by allegedly misquoting him in a press release made in September 2023 when he had thanked those who made the release of players for the Asian Games possible. His argument was that the AIFF and FSDL should not have been mentioned by name in the release and in his quote. It appears that Mr. Stimac was more concerned about finding specious reasons to end his coaching stint in a manner favourable to himself rather than focusing on the team’s preparations for perhaps the most important match in the Indian national team’s recent history.

The AIFF is also shocked to note from Mr. Stimac’s public statements that he underwent heart surgery during his engagement with the AIFF. He has irresponsibly blamed the AIFF for causing his heart ailment, attempting to deflect the serious matter of his not having been medically fit to render coaching services and his failure to formally disclose the same to the AIFF.

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.

Mr. Stimac’s conduct combined with the waning performance of the national team made the status quo unsustainable. The AIFF had to act in the national interest and to ensure the game moves forward in the country. Mr. Stimac was offered the opportunity to part ways on mutual terms. He refused the offer, making unreasonable and unprofessional demands in response. The AIFF was, thus, left with no option than to terminate Mr. Stimac’s contract for just cause and in compliance with the terms of the contract, offering him a 3 months’ severance fee.

The AIFF had to act in a timely manner, keeping in mind the upcoming FIFA window in September 2024 and the time required for the hiring process of a new coach, and support staff while they are in the market. The AIFF took the decision to terminate Igor Stimac’s contract for just cause, and in the interest of the nation and will continue to act to safeguard our football, players and the stakeholders.

Change is difficult for all concerned and every transition is challenging for a system. The AIFF looks forward to turning the page and beginning a new chapter for Indian football along with its stakeholders and all the lovers of Indian football.

About Press Release

Check Also

India’s president Draupadi Murmu asks stakeholders to work together for Indian Football upliftment!

India’s president Draupadi Murmu on Wednesday, July 10 asked the stakeholders of Indian football to …