Igor Stimac likely to remain head coach despite India’s shocking loss to Afghanistan

Igor Stimac likely to remain head coach despite India's shocking loss to Afghanistan

The top brass of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is inclined to heed to the recommendation of its technical committee to remove national men’s team head coach Igor Stimac but contractual issues may make it difficult to do so, PTI has learnt. Also given the fact that India’s next World Cup qualifiers round 2 match is slated for June 6 against Kuwait in Kolkata, changing the man at the helm at this point in time may not be a good idea, according to AIFF sources.

“Under the circumstances, he (Stimac) is likely to be in charge of the team in the next two matches in June,” a source told PTI on conditions of anonymity.India will have to get a favourable result against Kuwait if they want to make it to the World Cup qualifiers round 3 for the first time. After that, the Blue Tigers face reigning Asian champions Qatar on June 11 in an away match. It is also learnt that the I M Vijayan-led technical committee wondered “how Stimac can continue (as head coach)” after the shocking 1-2 defeat to the depleted Afghanistan side in Guwahati on March 26.

India’s away match against the Afghans in Abha, Saudi Arabia, ended in a 0-0 stalemate. Stimac was first appointed head coach in 2019 for a two-year tenure. In October 2022, his contract was extended till January 2024 (when the AFC Asian Cup was held). But, in October 2023, the AIFF again extended his contract till June 2026, following India’s fine show in the World Cup qualifiers round 1 and the SAFF Championships.

Sources in the AIFF said that the initial contract had a severance clause (9.1) which provides for three months’ notice period. But the latest contact (signed in October 2023) does not have this clause, and this has created problems for the AIFF as far as sacking Stimac is concerned.

Stimac draws a salary of USD 30,000 (Rs 25 lakh approximately) per month and in the absence of the severance clause with three months notice period, the AIFF may end up paying him more than USD 750,000 (Rs 6.254 crore approximately) if the federation wants to sack him now.

The AIFF pays the whole salary to Stimac but the federation gets nearly half the amount as reimbursement from the Sports Authority of India.

“While the original contract provided the AIFF an opportunity to terminate the contract without assigning any reason with three months’ notice, the AIFF gave up this right during the contract extension period and this was documented in the amendment letter,” read the legal opinion sought by the AIFF.

“Any termination that does not comply with the agreement would give him an opportunity to claim illegal termination and compensation for all fees due to him for the rest of the term.”

Shaji Prabhakaran was the secretary general of the AIFF at that time before he was sacked on November 7 last year while Nilanjan Bhattacharjee — whose services were also terminated earlier this month — was the principal legal advisor.

It is also learnt that the AIFF may look into options like whether the earlier clause 9.1 can be construed as a part of the latest contract in case the agreement signed in October 2023 was an extension of the earlier one.

“The AIFF may be looking at if the latest contract signed last year (with Stimac) is an extension of the earlier one and in that case the earlier severance clause may still subsist (even if it is not expressly mentioned),” said the source.

“Or it may be that a contact without a severance clause may be bad in law and it (the clause) can be included again.”

The AIFF is also not happy with some of the comments made by Stimac after the loss to Afghanistan and it has constituted a five-member committee comprising vice president N A Haris, executive committee members Menla Ethenpa and Anilkumar Prabhakaran, and technical committee members I M Vijayan and Climax Lawrence to hold discussions with him and seek clarification on the matter.

“The AIFF President and its members also took note of certain comments made by India head coach Igor Stimac in the press about his future with the team after the completion of the Round 2 qualifiers,” the AIFF said.

Stimac had said that he would quit in June if he does not take India to the World Cup qualifiers round 3 in June.

Published By:

Saurabh Kumar

Published On:

Mar 30, 2024

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