In a shock 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 the 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 apparently had disputes in selecting the Olympic team. 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.
A day before his dismissal the 22 member Olympic squad was announced.
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