Iraq probes \'shocking\' volte-face of Bosnian coach

Friday 31/07/2015
It remains unclear what made 62-year-old coach run away

BAGHDAD - Iraq's football federation Sunday requested CCTV footage from Dzemal Hadziabic's hotel after the Bosnian unexpectedly left the country within a day of flying in to take over the national squad.

Best known as Jamal Haji, the veteran Bosnian coach who spent years managing teams in the Gulf, arrived in Baghdad on Friday, Iraqi federation spokesman Kamel Zghayr said.

The contract was to be officially signed on Sunday and the man tasked with steering Iraq to the 2018 World Cup then scheduled to hold a news conference.

But Haji was on a flight out of Iraq by Saturday.

"We were surprised Jamal Haji turned down the job and demanded to fly back to his country immediately," Zghayr said.

"Everything was going as planned. We had agreed after his arrival that the contract would be formally signed on Sunday and that he would then be presented to the press," he added.

Haji told Iraqi television as he landed in Baghdad on Friday how happy he was to become Iraq's new coach.

He had been expected to oversee a first training session at the Shaab stadium in Baghdad on Sunday before taking the national squad to Qatar for a 10-day training camp.

It was unclear what made the 62-year-old coach run away but Zghayr said the federation was looking into it.

"We officially requested access to the CCTV footage from the hotel's security office to find out whether anybody approached Haji," he said.

"We'll also check the SIM card he used since his arrival to find out if any calls have been made during his two-day stay but we don't suspect he has received any threats," he said.

Some Iraqis joked on social media that Haji may have been put off by the combination of temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) and crippling power outages.

But most speculated that endemic corruption and the kickbacks that often come with any contract in Iraq were the reason for his abrupt change of heart.

Federation boss Abdelkhalaq Massud said Haji's 11th-hour balk was a "shocking surprise".

He announced that the current Olympic football coach, Yahya Alwan, had been appointed as the new national coach instead.