The Indian men's national football team coach Igor Stimac consulted an astrologer ahead of the team's crucial AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifier match against Afghanistan last year, a news report has claimed. Sharing his probable starting line-up with the astrologer, Stimac reportedly wanted to know which of those players were likely to be "favoured by the stars". Two of India's decorated players were dropped from the starting XI by Stimac based on the astrologer's verdict, The Indian Express report added.
Two days ahead of the contest against Afghanistan in Kolkata, Delhi-NCR-based astrologer Bhupesh Sharma received a list of 11 names from the Indian gaffer, the report claimed on Tuesday. “Hi dear friend, you can check charts for each player from the list for 11 June. Kick off time is at 20.30,” the Croatian's text to Sharma reportedly said.
The daily added that the astrologer responded to Stimac positively, replying to him with his predictions about the players' performance. “Can do very well. Needs to avoid overconfidence”, “not recommended for the day”, “a below average day” “a very good day for him but might get over-aggressive” were among the "findings" of Sharma. The remarks by Sharma for each player's predicted performance were typed against their names and shared with Stimac, the report said.
The findings seemed to have influenced the coach as he opted against starting two players who were not recommended by the astrologer. However, India went on to win the match 2-1.
As many as 100 messages were exchanged between the duo in May 2022, when India played three Asian Cup qualifiers against Cambodia, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.
According to the daily, Stimac consulted the astrologer before finalising the lineup ahead of India's games. Even his substitution strategies were reportedly influenced by Sharma. It was a top All India Football Federation (AIFF) official who introduced the national coach to Sharma.
The report also claims that the astrologer Sharma was introduced to Stimac by AIFF (All India Football Federation) secretary-general Kushal Das in May 2022. The report quotes Das as saying that Sharma was paid Rs 12-15 lakh for two months of work.
“I met him at a meeting. He (Sharma) had worked for a lot of telecom companies and Bollywood personalities. What they presented was that astrological timings and the current phase of players can help motivate people into taking the right decisions,” Das reportedly told The Indian Express.
Neither Stimac nor the AIFF have responded to the report during the time of publishing this article.