by Sudipta Biswas
35 on AIFF’s list, who will grab the coveted job?
All India Football Federation (AIFF) has shortlisted 35 candidates for the post of the senior Indian men’s football team coach. The list comprised European heavyweight Sven-Goran Eriksson to famous coach in Indian football circle Albert Roca.
Apart from them, Tommy Taylor (England), Hakan Ericson (Sweden), Tomislav Sivic (Serbia), Lee Clark (England) and Lucas Alcaraz Gonzalez (Spain) are some of the other renowned names shortlisted for the job.
No doubt, former England coach Sven-Goran is the biggest name in the list. In February, he expressed his wish to manage the Blue Tigers to help them climb to a new height.
Sven-Goran was in charge of Three Lions for five years before taking a call on his tenure with FA following England’s quarter-finals exit from the 2006 World Cup. They lost to Portugal in the penalty shoot-out.
India’s recent upsurge in international football caught the attention of many football coaches; as a result, AIFF has seen 250 applications coming up thick and fast in their ambit. The long list also featured some of the well-known faces of European football.
The position of Indian football team head coach has been left vacant since English man Stephen Constantine stepped down following India’s group stage exit in AFC Asian Cup after putting a great fight against UAE and Bahrain.
Sunil Chhetri led India had defeated Thailand 4-1 before going down to UAE 2-0 and 1-0 to Bahrain in their final two group matches.
Constantine, who served India twice in his career, instilled confidence among Indian footballers and helped them to play positive football. Under his tutelage, India qualified for the Asian Cup after a gap of eight years.
After his exit AIFF took a fair amount of time to shortlist the candidates for the post since India have not had any fixture in hand before June when they will visit to Thailand to play King’s Cup.
Initially, the Indian football governing body shortlisted 125 candidates out of which 35 fit their eligibility criteria. Now, it is learnt that around 5-7 candidates will be called for the in-person interview at AIFF’s football house in New Delhi.
“The federation has received over 250 applications. 125 were selected after that and out of which 80 qualified as per the AIFF’s requirements. After that, around 35-40 names, based on various criteria, have been forwarded to the technical committee. Seven to eight will be called for the final interviews, following which the appointment will be made,” an AIFF official was quoted saying on the condition of anonymity.
Who could make the cut?
As a coach, the 71-year-old Swede won 18 trophies in his career with clubs in Sweden, Portugal and Italy between 1979 and 2000. He is the first coach to win a league and top notch knockout tournament in three countries.
But, when it comes to managing a national side successfully other names could edge him out since he hardly enjoyed success in international football. Apart from England, he managed the national teams of Mexico, Philippines and the Ivory Coast.
But, his experience of managing both national and club sides could help him to bag the job, keeping in mind that rest are small in stature and hardly managed a top class national side.
However, Sven-Goran’s age and long hiatus from coaching could hurt his interest.
The Spaniard is a renowned face in Indian football. Under his coaching, Bengaluru FC played four finals in just two seasons. They made it to the final of AFC Cup in 2016, the Federation Cup in 2017 and the ISL and Super Cup in 2018.
Roca helped Bengaluru FC to win the Federation Cup and Super Cup but missed out the AFC Asia Cup and ISL title.
Lucas Alcaraz Gonzalez
Like Roca, his fellow Spanish coach Gonzalez never managed a national team. However, the 52-year-old was at the helm of La Liga top division teams Granada and Levante.
The 46-year-old is a former player of Newcastle United, Sunderland and Fulham. He also made 11 appearances for England under-21 team during his international career.
Later, he joined Newcastle United as an assistant coach before being appointed as full-time coach of Huddersfield Town, Birmingham City, Blackpool, Kilmarnock and Bury.
AIFF earlier said that they were looking forward to appoint a young coach with a broad vision for Indian football, but if they find any big name eligible and fitting their bill they will definitely not like to rule him out from the contention for the post.
Now, it will be interesting to see who make the cut into the coveted job!
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