If a war breaks out in Iraq, there may be at least one German stuck behind enemy lines. East Germany's former national football coach, Bernd Stange, is about to take over the running of the Iraqi National team.
Under pressure to succeed: Bernd Stange is expected to join the Iraq team.
It may not be the most attractive position in world soccer right now but Bernd Stange has decided that the opportunity to coach the Iraqi National Team is too good to pass up. The job became available after previous coach Adnan Hamd was sacked.
According to asian-football.com, the former Leipzig player and coach of the East German team has taken charge of the Hussein family's star eleven after signing a four-year contract with the Iraq Football Association.
No stranger to oppressive regimes, 54-year-old Stange joins the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) champions after ten years in charge of the GDR, a former communist country, and the Middle Eastern state of Oman.
"I received the offer in June and I went to Baghdad then," Stange told the mass-circulation German newspaper "Bild."
"I hesitated for a long time, but after consultations with FIFA and the German foreign ministry I must now make a decision." It has been reported that a decision has been made and that Stange will be unveiled as coach in the near future.
Former GDR coach wants to take Iraq to the World Cup
"I've been out of work for over a year now and you don't receive many offers at my age. With Iraq, I would have a chance of taking part in the 2006 World Cup in Germany," added Stange, who, as well as coaching a number of Bundesliga sides, has also coached FC Dnipro in Ukraine and Perth Glory in Australia.
Iraq won its first international football title in 14 years at the WAFF Championship in early September. The Iraqi national side grabbed a dramatic 3-2 golden goal victory over Jordan after being two goals down in the WAFF final in Damascus, Syria.
It is unlikely that Stange will have any trouble with discipline from his new charges. There will be no posturing, preening or exorbitant financial demands from his stars, either. The team, under the ultimate control of the Saddam Hussein's son Uday, is already fully aware of the price of failure and underachievement.
Alleged half time beatings motivate players to win
Iraq Football Association meetings will come as a shock to Stange.
A former Iraqi international member, Saad Keis Naoman, has alleged that he and his team mates were beaten by order of Uday for poor performances on the pitch. Naoman claims he was flogged and forced to sleep on his stomach in a tiny cell in the Al-Radwaniya prison in which he was jailed.
This account supports further allegations of brutality made by Sharar Haydar Mohamad Al-Hadithi, another former international player. Al-Hadithi stated in August 1999 that he and his team mates were tortured for not winning matches.
In 2000, three players who were members of the team that lost in the Asian Cup quarter finals were allegedly whipped and detained for 3 days. There are also claims that members of the national team were beaten and tortured on Uday's orders because they played badly in a World Cup qualifying match in 1997.
It is a far cry from the glamour of the European leagues and western techniques of coaching and motivation in the international arena. Iraq's new coach will be fully aware that his position will be monitored very carefully.
He will carry the sporting hopes of the Hussein al-Tikriti family and Iraqi people on his shoulders ... depending on whether or not they have more pressing matters to occupy their attention in the coming months.