The All India Football Federation (AIFF) was rocked with fresh controversy on Tuesday after reports emerged of the Indian football team being selected on the basis of suggestions made by an astrologer. It was reported by The Indian Express that the development took place around the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers last year.
As per the report, head coach Igor Stimac got in touch with Delhi-NCR based astrologer Bhupesh Sharma, who was introduced to the Croatian by former secretary-general of AIFF, Kushal Das in May 2022.
As per the details revealed in the report, the coach dropped a message to the astrologer, asking him to “check charts for each player from the list for 11 June.”
Stimac had communicated the same to the astrologer two days before the match against Afghanistan, which India won 2-1. (Also Read | A Saturday night show of late goals, boorish fans and on-field brawl)
The report mentioned that the “list” Stimac referred to contained the names of probable, who would start the match against Afghanistan.
The astrologer got back to Stimac within hours, with messages reading: “Good”; “can do very well. Needs to avoid over confidence”; “a below average day”; “a very good day for him but might get over aggressive”; “not recommended for the day” against each name.
The report further mentioned that there are close to 100 messages exchanged between the two in May-June 2022. India played four matches during this period – friendly against Jordan and three matches at the Asian Cup qualifiers. Stimac got in touch with Bhupesh before every match.
Praful Patel, who was the president of AIFF then, told Indian Express he “was not aware or told” about the issue.
Meanwhile, Das said Bhupesh had earlier worked with Bollywood personalities. “That time, I was worried if India would qualify for the Asian Cup and so was Igor, let me be very honest. 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 utilised, he can get back to me. Igor was very convinced and they were in Kolkata throughout,” Das was quoted as saying in the report. Das also confirmed that the astrologer was paid “around ₹12-15 lakh.”
The exchange between Stimac and Bhupesh pose strong questions on Indian football team’s selection process. In addition an astrologer – in this case an outsider – receiving vital team information also runs the risk of it being misused.
Hence it was natural for fans to come down heavily on the footballing body. Here are a few reactions
The reports come at a time when coach Stimac has been slapped with a show-cause notice by AIFF for his explosive interview with the Indian Express.
The coach is also at the center of a tussle with the Indian Super League clubs, with some of them not willing to release players for the national camps, especially with big tournaments lined-up in the near future.