Igor Stimac, India’s head coach, expressed worry on Friday about a shortage of quality footballers at the national level, urging the top tier Indian Super League and I-League to take aggressive roles in producing players like Sunil Chhetri. The lack of a great striker was once again clear in India’s recent World Cup qualifiers in Qatar, where the aged Chhetri scored a brace in their lone win of the campaign, a 2-0 victory over Bangladesh.
After India advanced to the final qualifying round of the 2023 Asian Cup, the 53-year-old Croat held a virtual press conference to answer questions about anything from his future to the shortcomings of the Indian Super League. When asked about the replacement for Chhetri, Stimac responded, “Who do you see in India who can replace Chhetri?” Do you think there’s anyone in a good position to play centre-forward?”
Stimac, whose contract as head coach was just extended until September, also chastised the ISL’s absence of a relegation system. He emphasised that the new regulation permitting only four foreign players in the ISL will benefit Indian players, saying, “Once we open the spots for Indian players, the time will come for us to push forward as a national team.”
He believes that when the four-foreigner limit is implemented, clubs should deploy Indian players as a backup to the foreign players. He also proposed that the I-League, India’s second-tier domestic football competition, be played without foreign strikers.
In terms of the next months, the head coach plans to hold a national camp in August and have the players play several friendly games before the ISL begins. India’s qualification for the Asian Cup final qualifying phase, according to Stimac, fulfilled the team’s aim.