Sacked soccer head coach Ratomir Dujkovic (left) was replaced by his Chinese assistant Yin Tiesheng yesterday. Zhong Ti
In a shocking move, the China Football Association (CFA) yesterday sacked Ratomir Dujkovic, the once highly regarded men`s Olympic soccer coach, just three weeks before the opening match of the Beijing Games.
CFA vice-president Xie Yalong announced the decision in front of the players and coaching staff before the start of the squad`s training session in Changchun, Jilin province.
Both fans and media are furious at the predictable storyline of a foreign-born coach clashing with the CFA and ultimately losing his job. This episode is especially painful as it comes so soon before the Olympics and would appear to damage the team`s prospects next month.
The CFA did not cancel Dujkovic`s contract, which is scheduled to expire after the Beijing Games, but has named Chinese coach Yin Tiesheng as the replacement effective immediately.
Dujkovic will continue scouting for the team, researching opponents` tactics and providing assessments for the coaching staff.
Dujkovic and Xie have not seen eye to eye for some time; the two had disputes in selecting the Olympic team, media have reported. Xie has also been displeased with Dujkovic`s tendency to arrive late to training sessions.
A survey on Sina.com showed over 77 percent of respondents see Dujkovic as the victim, and only 9 percent say his coaching ability cost him his job. Another 64 percent believe the reshuffle will bring more chaos to the team and will make it difficult to advance into the quarterfinal. Only 4 percent believe the team can reach its target and make the semis.
After joining the team in 2006, Dujkovic enjoyed a honeymoon period when he led the team to an impressive showing at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha with three group wins and a thrilling quarterfinal penalty loss to Iran.
He was most impressive in 2007 at an under-21 tournament in Toulon, where China stormed into the finals before falling short to France.
But Dujkovic has failed to inspire the Olympic team, and things seem to have gotten worse since he took the helm of national team at the same time.
Two Serbian coaches - Dujkovic and managing coach Vladimir Petrovic - led the national team, creating a dynamic that often proves confusing to many players and observers.
The two different coaching styles, an undefined role for each coach and an ever-changing starting lineup all led to confusion and resentment among players and have been fingered as the main cause behind China`s elimination from the 2010 World Cup Asian Zone qualifier.
Dujkovic, for his part, refused to take any responsibility for China`s losses, insisting the team was just not lucky enough. But the coach has a bad reputation for his failure to manage the national team, and his sour relationship with players and official has infected the Olympic team.
Younger players have not shown trust him and his lack of communication with the team finally cost him his post.
Olympic team announced
The Serbian coach did announce the final 22-member Olympic squad just one day before his dismissal.
But he made it clear after the announcement that he lost the power to determine the list.
"I cannot make some decisions right now," he said. "Some of the players on the list were not my choice.
"On the current list, there is one player who I think is a total incompetent. But I have no right to let him go."
The squad has four players each from Chinese Super League sides Shanghai Shenhua and Shandong Luneng.
Charlton star Zheng Zhi and Manchester United`s Dong Fangzhou will spearhead China`s seemingly unlikely quest for a medal in the Olympic soccer tournament.
Shenhua`s Qiu Shengjiong, Li Weifeng, Shen Longyuan and Gao Lin are on board while the Shandong complement includes Zhou Haibin, Yuan Weiwei, Cui Peng and Han Peng.
Playmaker Zheng, who has recovered from a herniated disk in his lower back that threatened his participation, captains the side.
He will be flanked by Li and Han who form the trio of over-age players.
AFP contributed to this story