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Iraq coach slams Zico for ditching team

Shaker showers praise on UAE for team’s cohesion and stability

Gulf News

Manama: Iraq caretaker coach Hakeem Shaker credited the UAE’s stability and cohesion after his side’s 2-1 Gulf Cup loss to the emirates in Manama on Friday.

But it was also a veiled dig at his team’s former coach Zico, who left Iraq in November over a pay dispute, leaving Shaker with less than a month to prepare a split camp for the competition.

Zico had created disharmony by leaving out experienced stars; Younus Mahmoud, Nashat Akram and Karrar Jasem in exchange for youth. But, while Shaker himself is an advocate of fielding future talent, he aimed to do it gradually, bringing back Mahmoud for this event, for a better blend of youth and experience.

“Maybe today I’ll face a lot of criticism,” said Shaker, who still left out Akram and Jasem. “But a coach needs a long term plan and three weeks is not enough to prepare for this tournament.

“The UAE won with cohesion after being under their coach a long time, and they deserve their victory because of this.”

Shaker added: “Zico left before the tournament and up until now that has had bad consequences because he left at such an important time. We brought seven to eight youth players into the final and they defended the reputation of Iraq. But the consequences under which Zico went, left these players under huge pressure heading into the Gulf Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers.

“It left Younus Mahmoud under pressure. I was the main factor behind his return to the team but emotionally and psychologically, it was very difficult for him. When it comes to Iraq’s issues, Zico is always to be blamed.

“We hope Iraq can have a good coach to achieve better results in the future. Now the new-coming team is a golden team and I should be given the chance to continue because I initiated this generation, so that we can get future results.”