Senior national team head coach Igor Stimac’s contract has been extended until 2026, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) announced on Thursday, rewarding him for overseeing three title triumphs this year. As per the contract, the Croat will automatically get an extension by another two years if India qualify for the third round of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. Former India stopper Mahesh Gawli, the assistant coach of the senior men’s team, was appointed as the head coach of the men’s U-23 team.
Stimac, a member of the Croatia side that finished third at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, took charge of the Blue Tigers in 2019 and has won four major titles with the side, including two SAFF Championships.
“The federation, the members have decided to extended the contract of our national team, Igor Stimac, until the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers. We have agreed to this, agreed to continue as one team,” AIFF secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran said during a virtual interaction.
Stimac was seated beside Prabhakaran and Gawli as the top AIFF official made the announcement.
Most recently, Stimac guided the Indian men’s team to the round of 16 at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. It is the first time in 13 years that the team has progressed thus far in the continental showpiece.
“We are seeking to ensure stability in the national team. What we have experienced in the last few months, winning back-to-back tournaments, the performance on the pitch, even in the Kings Cup match against Iraq was great “We can only progress, we can only improve from here. The process cannot be halted in between,” Prabhakaran said.
Stimac was last week offered a fresh deal of two more years as head coach of the senior team with the AIFF president Kalyan Chaubey proposing the contract extension.
“I feel a part of this family. I have huge trust in my staff. I appreciate the AIFF for placing their trust in us. It’s been a busy last three-four days, and we know what is at stake here, we know we need to keep progressing.
“Having stable staff around me is important, it’s important to have great people around,” Stimac said.
Meanwhile the AIFF said the I-League is set to start from October 28 and the fixtures will be released soon.
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