April 30 – Three weeks after being fired as Japan’s national coach, Vahid Halilhodzic says he still doesn’t know why he was ousted as he launched a passionate defence of his time of charge.
Halilhodzic, replaced by former JFA technical director Akira Nishino in early April just two months before the World Cup, broke his silence in front of than 300 journalists on Friday.
“This has been the most difficult time of my life,” Halilhodzic said at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. “Maybe I was a little naive, but everything I did was to make the team successful. I feel there has been a lack of respect.”
JFA president Kozo Tashima cited a “breakdown in trust and communication” but the Bosnian said he had been given no prior warning.
“I haven’t found out the truth,” said Halilhodzic, who was also fired by Cote d’Ivoire just months ahead of the 2010 World Cup, despite leading the West African nation to qualification. ““At first I thought it was a joke. I was in shock.”
“I wish the president had told me that there was a problem, and that goes for Nishino too. I wish he had given me some information. Why didn’t they tell me or my staff? I am in shock. No one told me anything.”
Halilhodzic suggested that two unnamed players may have been responsible for his downfall.
“I never had any problem with anyone I worked with in the three years I was in the job, especially the players,” he said. “I stayed in touch with all the players, both those who play overseas and those who play in Japan. I was in constant contact with them. I never criticized any of my players in public in the three years I was in the job. I always said that I would take the brunt of the criticism myself.
“After we qualified for the World Cup after beating Australia, there were two players who didn’t play who were disappointed. But they had played in a lot of the previous games.”
Local media have speculated that Halilhodzic’s refusal to choose certain players may have contributed to his dismissal. Results since qualification have been disappointing but Halilhodzic added: “I was building a team for the World Cup. I wasn’t really thinking about the results (in friendly matches). I wasn’t satisfied with the results but there were lots of positives things to come out of those games.”
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