Indian men's football team coach Igor Stimac has his eyes firmly set on the upcoming Asian Cup 2024 where he is expecting big things from the Blue Tigers but if the results don't come his way, the former Croatia international will quit and leave the team.
The 55-year-old guided has India to three titles since March. India won the tri-nation international tournament in Manipur (March 22-28) before clinching titles in the Intercontinental Cup (June 9-18) in Bhubaneswar and SAFF Championships (June 21 to July 4) in Bengaluru.
The players were in the national camp from mid-May till the SAFF Championships.
Stimac demands 4-week training camp before Asian Cup
Stimac has now demanded an extended period for the Indian team ahead of the crucial tournament in January next year. The Asian Cup will be played from January 12 to February 10.
"After four years of hard work, it will all boil down to the Asian Cup and a bad result will mean people will say, Nah. And I am not ready for that.
"So we need to act now. Either, we do this together for the next four years, or I am happy to put in my papers and walk away without a word," Stimac said in a recent interview.
Stimac had said he would need at least a four-week camp to do well in the Asian Cup while the All India Football Federation (AIFF) top brass had indicated that his demand would be difficult to meet as the clubs may not agree to release their players for such a long period in the midst of the domestic season.
Sunil Chhetri backs Stimac's training camp idea
But his demand for the camp has been backed by India captain Sunil Chhetri, who also pitched for at least one international friendly match against a top-seven ranked country in Asia such as Iran, Japan or Saudi Arabia before the continental showpiece.
"We are going to face Australia, Uzbekistan and Syria in the Asian Cup (group matches), that is why Stimac (as well as goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu) have spoken about long camps. We need it, and I really hope we get it," Chhetri said in a virtual media interaction.
"When you go to the national camp, there are injuries to players and they come with different mental levels from their respective clubs. You need to take care of all these, and to do that, you need more time," he said, attributing the team's success in the recent tournaments to a long camp of more than 50 days.
India's next assignment will be the Kings Cup (September 7-10) in Thailand where the team faces Iraq, Lebanon and the host country. (With Agency inputs)