New Delhi: The Indian football team had their first training session under newly-appointed coach Igor Stimac in New Delhi on Tuesday, with the side preparing for the upcoming King's Cup to be hosted in Thailand.
The Indian players have only had a brief introduction to their new coach so far in the form of a formal introduction, but if the opinions of Rahul Bheke and Brandon Fernandes are to be considered, then the Croat is capable of delivering great things for Indian football.
"He's a well-experienced coach, I must say. Experience speaks for itself. When he interacted with us, he looked very positive about the team, and I feel he can do great things for this country," FC Goa midfielder Fernandes told reporters on the sidelines of the training session at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the national capital.
Stimac, who served Croatian football both as a player as well as a manager and was part of the squad that reached the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup, got his appointment confirmed by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) last Wednesday. In the short time that he has spent with the Blue Tigers, he has already started to localise himself and has given his team an idea of what he wants from the squad.
"He greeted everyone with a namaste. Everyone was happy to hear that. And then he started his introduction, and what his plans are. He is very much positive regarding his aims.
"As a team, he wants attacking football and he really wants that players should play as a team, as a unit. As he is a Croatian, he gave an example of his team and how they did well... So he said it's possible for us also if we do that. ," said Bheke, who had scored the winning goal for Bengaluru FC against FC Goa in the final of the 2018-19 ISL.
One factor that binds both Bheke and Fernandes is their hunger to achieve bigger things in life, beginning with a place in the Blue Tigers' starting XI. While both players have made an impact at the club level, especially in the Indian Super League (ISL), they are yet to make their mark in the international arena.
"When people speak about this, you tend to get a bit hurt because you work really hard and you perform well and you think you should have been in the team.
"I kept my calm, kept my focus and what I had in control... I knew I was going to get a chance sooner or later," said Fernandes, who has represented India at various age group levels in the past but is yet to get a shot at the elite level.
Bheke too has kept his plans pretty simply " to keep doing well.
"Right now, my only target is to keep doing well. Keep doing what the coach needs... In this season, surely I'm looking forward to getting into the national team, do well for my team, try to win matches," added the Mumbai native.
The King's Cup, Stimac's first assignment in his new role, takes place in Buriram in Thailand, where India are up against the host country as well as Curacao and Vietnam.