Barely nine months before India hosts the FIFA Under-17 football World Cup, national coach Nicolai Adam is set to be shown the door after complaints of "physical abuse" by some of the players, according to sources.
It has been learnt that All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel has told Nicolai, in a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday, to quit on his own or be sacked.
Sources told PTI that at least four boys have complained to Patel through their parents that Nikolai and assistant coach Etibar Nizami Ibrahimov have abused them physically which has made it very difficult for the AIFF to continue working with the duo.
Nicolai, a former Azerbaijan Under-19 coach, was appointed in 2015 as head coach to assemble a competitive Indian team to play in the Under-17 FIFA World Cup to be held in six cities across the country from October 6 to 28.
"The parents of these boys have made written complaints to Patel that the coach and assistant coach have physically abused their children on more than one ocassion. They have told Patel that assistant coach Etibar (Nizami Ibrahim) had even slapped and manhandled the boys. It was a serious issue and these boys did not even want to play in Russia," a reliable source said.
The Indian Under-17 side had recently participated in a tournament in Russia where they finished at the bottom out of 16 teams.
The AIFF issued a denial today, saying it had not sacked Nicolai but sources said it was done to ensure that the issue does not blow out of proportion and to get the resignation of the head coach in his own.
Apparently the the denial was issued after the Sports Ministry, which is investing a lot of money in hosting the mega tournament, had enquired about the issue.
"Patel is not going to allow Nicolai to continue as coach because he fears the parents of these boys may make complaints to statutory bodies like the National Human Rights Commission. The plan is to force Nicolai quit on his own. Till now Nicolai has refused to quit but if he does not do that he will be sacked. Patel has told this to Nicolai," the source said.
The AIFF release, which denied the sacking of Nicolai, did say that there was a meeting of Patel and the coach along with the boys here yesterday.
"The AIFF President Mr Praful Patel interacted on Tuesday (January 24, 2017) with the coach and the boys who were on their way back to Goa from the Valentin Granatkin Memorial Tournament in St Petersburg, Russia. The President discussed the performance of the team as well as the way forward towards preparing a more competitive team for the U-17 World Cup," the release said.
It has been learnt that AIFF general secretary Kushal Das has been sent to Goa, where the players and Nicolai are based for training camp, to get the resignation of the German coach.
But Das could not be reached for official confirmation.
Under Nicolai, the Indian team has been doing poorly, starting from the AFC U-16 Championships and BRICS Youth Cup last year.
Sports Minister Vijay Goel also took a note of the issue and have called for detailed report from the AIFF on the matter related to Nicolai.
"I learnt from media reports about the removal of Nicolai Adam, coach of the Indian Under-17 team for the FIFA World Cup. I have called for factual report from the All India Football Federation and also from my officers. The Government will take appropriate action only after the report is received," Goel said in a statement.