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Beleaguered Soccer Coach Faces Health Problem
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China's embattled national women's football coach, Ma Liangxing, may soon find himself replaced by a foreign coach ahead of September's World Cup, local media said yesterday.

The reports said Ma could be forced out as Chinese Football Association continues the pressure for better results.

"Is he really sick, or is he faking it?" screamed a headline in the Soccer Daily following Ma's disappearance from a training session ahead of this week's four-nation tournament in south China.

"Is his heart sick or does he have heart disease?" it added.

Ma disappeared from training last week and was allegedly being examined by doctors in his hometown of Shanghai, the Titan Sports newspaper said.

If Ma is unable to lead China in this week's tournament, which includes national teams from the United States, England and Germany, the team's German advisor Eckhard Krautzun will assume head coaching duties, Titan reported.

Chinese coach Wang Haiming is also being touted as a potential replacement, it said.

Ma has coached the women's team since they lost to rivals Japan in a semifinal match at the 2006 Asian Games in December.

The Chinese side has been eager to put on a good showing at this September's Women's World Cup in China, a key tune-up ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Since finishing second to the United States in the 1999 World Cup, the Chinese women, known as the "Steel Roses", have failed to reclaim such heights in international competition.

(China Daily January 23, 2007)

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