In the past year, the Indian men’s football team has made remarkable progress, thanks in large part to the guidance of head coach Igor Stimac.
Amidst these achievements, there have also been several controversies surrounding the AIFF and Stimac himself. However, a recent report by the Indian Express has raised eyebrows, which suggested that Stimac consulted an astrologer to determine the stars of his players and whether they should start in particular matches.
This intriguing development came about when Stimac was introduced to an astrologer named Bupesh Sharma by former AIFF secretary general Kushal Das, who was serving the federation at the time.
This consultation reportedly took place between May and June 2022, during which the Blue Tigers had a friendly match against Jordan and participated in the Asian Cup qualifiers against Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong.
According to the timeline of events, Stimac shared the fitness information of the 24 selected players with the astrologer just before the friendly match against Jordan on May 28, 2022. Additionally, he sought Sharma’s opinion on three players who had represented India during the under-17 World Cup in 2017.
The astrologer advised Stimac that it was not an ideal day or phase for one of the attacking midfielders. In response, Stimac asked Sharma to compare the player’s astrological profile with that of three other attackers.
Sharma ranked the player in question third in his order of preference. As a result, this player did not start the game against Jordan but came on as a substitute in the second half.
Following this initial consultation, Stimac and Bupesh Sharma decided to continue their discussions before each of the Asian Cup qualifiers scheduled from June 8 to June 14, 2022.
India won their first game against Afghanistan, with Stimac even crediting the astrologer’s advice for the successful player choices.
After this victory, Stimac and Sharma met for the first time to discuss the starting lineup for the game against Hong Kong. India went on to win that match 4-1, securing their spot in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
“For me, the most important thing was that India should qualify” – Former AIFF secretary general Kushal Das
Kushal Das was the one who introduced Stimac to the astrologer back in May 2022.
Das has disclosed to the Indian Express that he had concerns about India’s prospects of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup, prompting him to take a step by seeking astrological guidance.
“That time, I was worried if India would qualify for the Asian Cup and so was Igor, let me be very honest, “Das said. “It was not a comfortable situation. For me, the most important thing was that India should qualify. So I told him (Sharma) that I will put you in touch with the coach and if he likes it, he thinks your services can be utilized, he can get back to me. Igor was very convinced and they were in Kolkata throughout.”
Stimac also weighed in on the matter, explaining that he was intrigued by the idea of examining astrological predictions in the context of sports.
However, he revealed that a foreign assistant coach was taken aback by the cost of the astrologer’s contract. Das revealed that they paid between ₹12 to 15 lakhs for the astrologer’s services during that two-month period.
“Bhupesh was recommended to me and I was convinced (by others) that I have to check upon his possible effects in sports,” Stimac said. “No more than that. I requested another foreign assistant coach which was never even considered and was shocked to find out the size of Bhupesh’s contract.”
Stimac’s approach remains unconventional, as he continues to court controversy despite his success. Recently, he received a show-cause notice from the AIFF for making aggressive remarks.
Furthermore, he skipped press conferences for both the King’s Cup games and openly attributed India’s loss to Iraq to the referee’s decisions.