Yet another foreign search for a national soccer coach began when
senior China Football Association (CFA) officials squirmed back to
the drawing board in Beijing on Monday.
The CFA will resort to their past strategy of entrusting a
stranger to ameliorate China's inveterate woes, well-placed sources
Despite an abysmal track record with foreigners at the helm of
the national squad between 1997 and 2005, another blow-in is set to
take the reins when Zhu Guanghu is discarded.
"Though lots of plans are still under discussion, there is one
thing for sure: a foreign coach will take the helm of the national
team," Beijing News said.
"There is no chance for local coaches."
Domestic media are unanimous on this all-too-familiar
One possible replacement for Zhu is former France striker
The 43-year-old mentor left RC Strasbourg in June after
inspiring the club's promotion to French Ligue 1.
He said he looked forward to talking with the CFA in Beijing
later this month.
Other candidates circulating the rumor mill include domestic
league champions Shandong Luneng's Serbian coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic
and former Yugoslavian and Shanghai Shenghua coach Ilija
Recent national (under-24) Olympic team coach Ratomir Dujkovic's
name also has been mooted.
He has been tipped as the favorite candidate after refining the
Olympic team's brand of football.
But an unidentified CFA official denied any such promotion.
"The Olympic team's top priority is the 2008 Beijing Games," he
stressed to Soccer Newspaper.
"It is impossible now to have Dujkovic pick up the national
Other media outlets have downplayed the chances of having a big
name coach because they say that $500,000 to $1 million per year is
all the CFA has to offer its coach.
Another gamble begins
A postmortem and subsequent new coaching appointment after the
national team has disappointed at another major tournament has
become a tired old routine in China.
Nevertheless, CFA will again gamble on a "savior" to steer a
struggling squad to the promised land - the 2010 World Cup finals
in South Africa.
Zhu's days are most certainly numbered after his charges crashed
out of the Asian Cup quarterfinals following their 0-3 humiliation
by Uzbekistan last week.
It marked the team's worst performance at the tournament since
"We will first submit the proposal about how to invite a new
coach to the State General Administration of Sport, wait for the
approval and send the resignation to Zhu," Soccer
Newspaper quoted an official from CFA as saying on Monday.
"After the procedure, we will start to select new coach.
"But a new coach will come out after negotiations with the
candidates and discussion with top officials.
"I don't think it will be done in one or two months. I think the
new coach will be determined as early as October, maybe at the end
of this year if it gets late."
China reached the finals of the World Cup for the first time in
2002 under Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic.
Milutinovic resigned after the tournament because of his
reportedly bad rapport with CFA officials.
Dutchman Arie Haan was chosen to replace the Serb in 2002.
He left the post two years later following an early exit from
the Asian Zone 2006 World Cup qualifiers.
Zhu, the former Chinese junior soccer boss, took the helm in
March 2005 but has consistently fallen short, both in warm-up
matches against minnows and major competitions among evenly matched
Admirably, the beleaguered mentor apologized to fans after the
Uzbekistan debacle, where a draw would have roped a quarterfinals
But many apportion Zhu's failure to the CFA's listlessness.
While Japan and South Korea enjoy the fruits of grassroots
development and foreign coaches with suitable attitudes, Chinese
officials remain oblivious to the importance of cultivating talent,
and perpetually dither on appointing a coach au fait with an
authentic Chinese style of play.
Appointed in 2005, Zhu was the first local coach since 1997, the
year his much-maligned compatriot Qi Wusheng was fired in the wake
of China's failure to reach the 1998 World Cup.
An odious procession of international coaches followed Qi:
Englishman Bobby Houghton, Milutinovic and then Haan.
Their disparate styles and methods have exacerbated the original
dilemma to maroon the national team on a sea of failure.
(China Daily July 25, 2007)