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National team coaches - Igor Stimac gets contract extension, Maymol Rocky leaves

THE INDIAN MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM head coach Igor Stimac has been granted a one year extension to his contract by the AIFF Technical Committee, while Maymol Rocky, the head coach of the women's national team, has decided to leave her post.

Both Stimac and Rocky have had some tough on-field results recently, with the teams achieving sub-par results on the field. For Stimac, the World Cup 2022 Qualifiers turned out to be an underwhelming outing with India finishing third in the group, well short of a chance to progress to the next round, after dropping 6 points against Bangladesh and Afghanistan and giving away a late victory to Oman in a game they were leading. For Maymol Rocky, 2021 has been a tough year with the Indian women's national team losing 5 matches in a row in Turkish Women's Cup and friendlies; including a massive 8-0 loss to Russia. Both teams did not play during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Igor Stimac and Maymol Rocky

However both coaches have had their moments as well. Although Stimac has only registered just two wins in his tenure (Against the not so impressive Thailand and Bangladesh), he made waves when India held Asian champions Qatar to a goalless draw in Doha during the World Cup qualifiers. A draw with Syria at the Intercontinental Cup 2019 was also lauded by the fans. Maymol Rocky, too, has seen the national team through an important milestone. In the Olympic 2020 Qualifers, the Blue Tigresses put on their best performance in history, going undefeated and typing with hosts Myanmar at the top of the points table. They did not progress to next round by goal difference, following a thrilling 3-3 draw with Myanmar.

A certain amount of controversy, too, has been associated with both of these figures. For Stimac it has mostly been performance-related, while Maymol Rocky and her assistant coach Chaoba Devi were accused of preferential treatment by 7 Manipuri players who temporarily boycotted the national team camp. Some of those players later wrote a letter to AIFF to apologize.

With AFC Asian Women's Cup 2022 just around the corner, the timing of Rocky's resignation citing personal reasons has raised some eyebrows. While AIFF is looking for a new (possibly foreign) head coach to take over months ahead of the tournament, the new coach won't have a chance to pick out the squad from the domestic league as the Indian Womens' League has been postponed to 2022 citing COVID. This indicates the possibility that AIFF may conduct a multi-month preparatory programme for the women's national team like they did with the men's team before Asian Cup 2011.

Stimac's contract extension on the other hand appears to be a vote of confidence in his approach for the national team, whom he wants to convert to a team that plays a more passing-heavy attractive brand of football. The team is set to play friendlies and possibly the SAFF Championship (Unless AIFF decides to send the U-23 team again) in the lead up to the third round of Asian Cup Qualifiers which is set to begin next February. If India manage to qualify for Asian Cup 2023 in China, there's a good chance Stimac will get another extension to lead the team into the continental championship.

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