Igor Stimac is unlikely to step down as head coach of the senior India men’s football team. A member of the India contingent in Doha quoted Stimac as saying that he was heartbroken after Tuesday’s contentious 1-2 defeat to Qatar that ended India’s chances of making the third round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers but happy with the spunk the team showed in its first match after Sunil Chhetri retired.

Sunil Chhetri being hugged by coach Igor Stimac on his farewell match(PTI)

“The confidence and the positive attitude the team displayed have made him feel that he should continue for now,” the official, requesting anonymity, told HT on Wednesday. At the post-match press conference in Doha, Stimac said the result was an injustice to his players and that India “should have scored three in the first half to kill the game definitely. But there is something which is missing in Indian football, and that’s clinical reactions inside the box.”

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On contract till June 2026, Stimac had said in March that if India didn’t make the third round, he would quit. Travelling home on Wednesday, Stimac could not be reached for a reaction. Like the players, Stimac has gone on holiday.

All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Kaylan Chaubey told HT that as part of its commitment to utilise FIFA windows for the men’s and women’s teams, AIFF will try to host a three-nation tournament in September. “Hopefully, we will play the Merdeka in October,” said Chaubey. The final FIFA window in 2024 is in November.

It is not clear if Stimac will be in charge then. If AIFF removes Stimac, it might have to pay nearly $360,000 ( 3 crore approximately) as severance package. That’s a lot for a federation that has pruned its competitions budget this year. An AIFF official said the technical committee’s inputs would be sought and a golden handshake is not ruled out, but for now Stimac stays.

“While referring to Qatar’s equaliser, Stimac also pointed out how a goal was denied against Malaysia (Merdeka Tournament) and a dubious penalty awarded to Iraq in the King’s Cup,” said the India official mentioned above.

Trailing 0-1 till the 73rd minute, Qatar levelled through Youssef Aymen after Alhashmi Mohialdin pulled the ball back, after it looked to have crossed the goalline.

Chaubey has written to FIFA, Asian Football Confederation and the match commissioner pointing out a “grave supervision error”. In his statement, Chaubey has “urged them (FIFA, AFC) to explore the possibility of sporting compensation to address the injustice.”

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