The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a standstill and even though Bundesliga action started last week, it is still a long way before normalcy returns. And Indias national football coach Igor Stimac says that while it has halted plans, it is also the perfect opportunity to change the structure of Indian football.
"The pandemic has destroyed the plans we had made which were accepted by both the government and the AIFF. We were to go on pre-season training camps to Turkey and Croatia in April and May and we were supposed to play ten friendly games. We are now using this time to improve the education of our players including theoretical points and I am very happy that the players are all following individual training plans that we have sent them and communicating daily on our team groups.
"The pandemic could see certain rules and regulations be changed globally to rely on homegrown players. This is the perfect opportunity for India to dramatically change the structure of Indian football," he told WION.
Stimac said that his excitement as coach has only grown with the time that he has spent with the Indian players. "I am excited even much more than before after 12 months as India coach. We have proved that we can change many things in such a short time. The task was not easy to change from a kick and chase football to a more possession-based football. We have introduced many young players with more technical abilities.
"It was not easy and we knew we were going to suffer but this was the only way to stabilise the results in the future. We are building up a new team which should achieve its high level in the next 4-5 years. We have 25 players who are between 18-23 years old. I am not happy with regards to the results as we were expecting some more points from the Qualification tournament.
"Looking back we did not take our opportunities. I thought we could surprise Oman but lack of experience and lack of charismatic decisions on the field cost us. India is no longer the team that loses easy games, but we are not scoring enough goals," he explained.
Commenting on the unforeseen break, Stimac said: "I was joking that if there is someone that will benefit from this Covid-19 break then it is Indian football as we are used to long breaks. We have a break of 6-7 months every year and we should not have a problem with injuries as the players are used to this pause."
Stimac also threw light on the process that is being put in place to ensure that the whole footballing calendar changes in the country and the players get more game time, even if it isn't always televised.
"We have been working behind closed doors on many aspects. One is regarding the selection of players. We have been talking to the government to change the citizenship regulations. We were also in touch with FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited) to increase the length of the season and also to have a long term calendar season plus the need to restructure the Durand Cup and the Super Cup.
"Going forward what will be crucial is the number of games. We cannot stop our season at the end of February and football needs to be played until mid-May. I am told that it cannot happen as it overlaps with the broadcast of the IPL, but broadcast is not important. What is important is that players play more games to improve their football and bring more quality to the national team," he pointed.
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