Senior National Team
Miracle Worker Milutinovic comes calling in Blue Tigers' training
02 Jan 2024

Soumo Ghosh
AIFF Media Team

DOHA, QATAR: The Blue Tigers began 2024 with a rather pleasant surprise on New Year's day, when they were visited by a behemoth of the footballing world.

Former coach Bora Milutinovic from Serbia may be well past his glory days, but what glorious days they have been. To coach five teams like Mexico (1986), Costa Rica (1990), United States of America (1994), Nigeria (1998), and China (2002) to five consecutive FIFA World Cups is no mean feat, and the man has done and seen it all.

Born in Yugoslavia, during the latter stages of World War II, Milutinovic commands massive respect from the footballing community in the Balkans, and was immediately greeted by India head coach Igor Stimac, along with fitness coach Luka Radman and goalkeeping coach Frano Srdarev.

Milutinovic spoke at length to the India players ahead of their training sessions, sharing many inspiring words, before having a few candid words with the coaching staff.

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was in awe of the 79-year-old.

“It was an honour to meet a big personality like him and listen to his words. The first thing he reminded us of the most important thing in football,” said Gurpreet.

“He asked us, ‘What is the most important action in a game’? Then he went on to answer his own question: ‘It is the next action’. That really struck deep,” he said. “If you score, your next action is to defend; if you concede, your next action is to attack. It was an honour to listen to his words of wisdom.”

Defender Sandesh Jhingan marvelled at the simplicity and humility of someone who has achieved so much.

“The first thing he told us was that his English was not that great, and then he proceeded to speak to us in perfect English,” smiled Jhingan.

“He used certain words and phrases that made a big impact on me. He told us about the importance of having a dream and following it,” he said. “I didn't think much about it at that moment because we were about to start training, but later when I came back to the hotel to reflect on the whole thing, it really got me thinking. Speaking to him was inspiring indeed.”

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