Sunil Chhetri is a role model and most passionate one in dressing room, says Igor Stimac

New Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Oct 19, 2021, 06:34 PM IST
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File photo of Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri. Photograph:(PTI)

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Sunil Chhetri-led India convincingly defeated Nepal 3-0 at the National Football Stadium in Male, Maldives, on Saturday to clinch the SAFF Championship trophy for a record eighth time.

India men`s football team coach Igor Stimac on Tuesday mentioned that togetherness, energy, positive attitude and a great mindset have been the biggest takeaways as Indian Football moved forward together towards the final qualification process of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023. India convincingly defeated Nepal 3-0 at the National Football Stadium in Male, Maldives, on Saturday to clinch the SAFF Championship trophy for a record eighth time.

"The feelings are special, and it`s all for the players. I`m happy for them. They worked really hard in very difficult circumstances as there was a lot of criticism. Some two and a half years back when we started the process, we started with a certain knowledge about what we need to do, how long it will take, and how patient we need to be in the course of time," said Stimac during a virtual press conference. "No national team coach has the budget to buy players, and every national team coach works with players that come out of the leagues. To reiterate myself - on the very first day I had mentioned that suffering will be part of the way, but that`s the only way to go where we are heading to," he added.

Talking about the takeaways from the SAFF Championship, Stimac said: "The togetherness, the energy, the positive attitude and a great mind set. I know we were favourites going in this tournament, and we had certain problems at the beginning. We also did not get time to prepare much in comparison to other teams. If you look at Nepal, they were in preparation for this tournament for nearly two and a half months. "We had only seven or eight days before prior to the tournament. The manner in how the lads stood out, stayed positive, fought together, and how much energy they brought on to the pitch was amazing," he added. When asked about the impact of Sunil Chhetri, Stimac said: "It`s not just the goals he scores, but it`s his leadership on the pitch that is special. He is a role model, and he is the most passionate one in the dressing room. At this age, that`s quite unbelievable. His fitness is unbelievable and we wait for someone to step forward together with a better fitness condition, and with a better scoring ability to replace him."

Stimac also expressed his views on his coaching stint with the Blue Tigers so far. "Two and a half years ago I agreed upon taking this job because I understood that the AIFF Technical Committee, comprising of former players and captains, will understand the process, and what it takes, and how long it might take. I`m grateful to them for their support. We started reconstructing the team from the very first day because we opted for more technical football. We opted for more ball possession football, and opted for more technical players," said Stimac.

"Looking back at the results, I`d say that the match where we didn`t fulfil the expectations was against Bangladesh in Kolkata. All the rest was done in very difficult circumstances. If we look back, we will see that we played only two home games instead of five in the recent Qualifiers. Our first aim was to make sure we qualify for the third round. We secured third place in the group, and from there on to qualify for the final stages of AFC Asian Cup China 2023," he added.