Iraq taps German Sidka as coach ahead of Asia Cup
Arbil: German coach Wolfgang Sidka has been signed on as manager of the Iraqi national football team ahead of its defence of its 2007 Asia Cup championship in Qatar next year.
The 56-year-old, a former manager at Werder Bremen, put his name to a one-year deal worth 500,000 dollars, Iraqi Football Association (IFA) president Hussein Said said at a press conference in the northern city of Arbil.
"My mission with the Iraqi team will not be easy because I will be the manager during the Asia Cup," Sidka told reporters, referring to the immense popularity of football in Iraq.
"I will make sure to put together a strong side," added Sidka, who succeeds the Serb Bora Milutinovic as manager as well as fellow German coach Bernd Stange who managed the team at the time of the US-led invasion in 2003.
Iraq has been grouped with Iran, the United Arab Emirates and North Korea for the Asia Cup in 2011.
The country is aiming to recreate the glory of its 2007 Asia Cup triumph.
The success, which came during a brutal sectarian conflict back home in post-Saddam Iraq, was portrayed as national triumph, given that the victorious squad was composed of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
Since then, however, the Iraqi national squad has been unable to recapture its form, failing to qualify for this year`s World Cup in South Africa, and putting in a lackluster performance during the Confederations Cup in 2009.
It has also been embroiled in controversy at home, with an ongoing dispute over the election of a new IFA president, and a looming threat from FIFA of being barred from international play over political interference.