The Indian football team have a new head coach and there’s more to him than meets the eye.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) on Wednesday officially unveiled Igor Stimac as Stephen Constantine’s successor after the Englishman chose not to renew his contract that expired in January following the Asian Cup 2019 campaign in the UAE.
Stimac has enjoyed a fine playing career that saw him feature in English football for six years while also being part of an excellent Croatia team.
Apart from a short stint as coach of his country’s national team, his managerial career has largely involved helping struggling sides. However, he did begin with a Croatian league title at Hajduk Split.
HE WAS LINKED TO LAMPARD’S JOB
A year ago, Derby County fans had just about had it with then manager Gary Rowett who – soon after the Rams’ playoff campaign ended in defeat – requested permission to approach Stoke City regrading their vacant managerial post.
The club’s support yearned for a passionate character to lead their side and Stimac fit the bill. The former Derby defender was a fan favourite and an integral to the side between 1995 and 1999. In 2009, he was voted into a fans’ greatest ever XI by readers of the Derby Evening Telegraph. He even has an exclusive lounge named after him at Pride Park.
In fact, the club’s official fan group even urged the hierarchy to appoint Stimac following his Facebook post addressing the links in which he said: “Maybe the time has come to go back home.”
Of course, it was Frank Lampard who was handed the reins instead and surely they can’t have any complaints.
HE HAD A HIT SINGLE IN CROATIA
As if the thrill of being a professional footballer in the Premier League and a full international wasn’t enough, Stimac transitioned into the music industry soon after retiring. He was a vocalist and guitarist for ‘The Bohems’ and had a hit single ‘Mary and Katie’.
That he was part of Croatia’s first golden generation that finished third at the 1998 World Cup in France may have aided the song’s popularity but it remained number one on the charts in the country for four months.
“I think the sales were really down to Croatia doing well in the tournament rather than my voice,” Stimac – who also opened two discotheques of his own – joked.
In 2000, Stimac plied his trade at West Ham but being an active player didn’t keep him from starting his own company around the same time. Although, the company went bankrupt five years later.
His family meanwhile is in the business of manufacturing olive oil and wine, so he briefly indulged in that as well.
Despite having a year left on his West Ham contract back in 2001, Stimac decided to return to his boyhood club Split. In doing so, he accepted just £50,000 from West Ham to terminate his deal and negotiated a pay cut of £750,000 to join the Croatian club.
The 51-year-old was also a candidate to take over as president of the Croatian Football Federation but lost the elections to Vlatko Markovic.
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