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Serbian Leads Olympic Charge
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Serbian Ratomir Dujkovic has been appointed coach of China's Olympic football team for the 2008 Beijing Games, Chinese media reported yesterday.

His appointment was confirmed this week during two-day talks with Chinese Football Association officials. "During the meeting, Dujkovic was confirmed (as coach)," Wei Shaohui, director of the CFA's Olympic affairs office, told the Beijing News.

"Because his contract has not yet been settled and his appointment not yet reported to the General Administration of Sports, the decision has not been announced," Wei said.

Dujkovic, 60, led Ghana to the second round of the World Cup finals earlier this year and has also coached the national teams of Venezuela, Myanmar and Rwanda.

He first established his reputation in Africa by taking Rwanda to the African Nations Cup final for the first time in 2004 and augmented it when he turned around Ghana's qualifying campaign and led them to a debut World Cup appearance in Germany.

Protracted process

There, the Black Stars beat the Czech Republic and the United States to become the only African team to reach the knockout stages, in which they were beaten 3-0 by Brazil.

A former goalkeeper for Yugoslavia and Red Star Belgrade, Dujkovic started his coaching career at Galenika Zemun and was an assistant at Red Star when they won the European Cup in 1991.

The CFA's search for a foreign coach for their 2008 team has been a secretive and protracted process, with media speculation throwing up various names, including former England manager Howard Wilkinson, Frenchman Jacques Santini and Sven Goran Eriksson.

Dujkovic's cheap price relative to prospective coaches Eriksson and French manager, Philippe Troussier, had forced the CFA's hand, the paper said.

Dujkovic is to fly to Beijing on October 20 to sign a contract, but would be hard pressed to coach China against Japan in a friendly in Tokyo on the 25th, the paper said.

"There is no certainty he will be able to sort out the formalities by the 25th. It is possible he will accompany the team, but not formally take charge, because the contract still requires the sports ministry's approval," Wei said.

China hopes a foreign coach will help the national team secure a medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The 16-team under-23 competition will take place in Beijing, Shenyang, Shanghai, Tianjin and Qinhuangdao with the semi-finals and final taking place at the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium in the Chinese capital.

The Olympic football competition will start on August 6 2008, two days before the Games' opening ceremony.

(China Daily October 11, 2006)

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