Thu, Aug 02, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Japan coach proves skillful with rhetoric

AFP , TOKYO

Japan coach Ivica Osim has proven as skilled with his rhetoric as with his tactics, outwitting the media with a tongue as ready to evoke fallen trousers as soccer.

Despite his failure to bring the Blue Samurai a third straight continental title, his soundbites from Asian Cup venues in Southeast Asia have revived sales of a collection of his quotations in Japan, his second home since 2003.

Humor was not lost on the 66-year-old Bosnian when Japan lost to South Korea 6-5 on penalties after a scoreless tie in 120 minutes in the third-place play-off.

It was the second time that Japan had squandered chances created partly because of numerical advantages.

In the quarter-finals, they could not break a 1-1 tie against a 10-man Australia before beating them 4-3 on penalties.

"This kind of metaphor may raise some eyebrows," Osim said. "But it feels as if I have pulled down my trousers twice and shown twice what I should not have shown."

When Japan lost 3-2 to three-time champions Saudi Arabia in the semi-finals, Osim pointed out that the Blue Samurai opted not to field an extra defender against the formidable Saudi strike force of Malek Maaz and Yasser al Qahtani.

Osim said he took the risk because a thicker midfield would allow a playmaker or a "beautiful player" to come forth.

"Isn't it more attractive that way? It makes the game more open and shows beautiful football that way," said Osim, who led the former Yugoslavia to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals despite difficulty holding together a multi-ethnic side.

Osim, a fatherly figure who towers over anybody else on the team at 1.9m, avoided watching the penalty shootout with the Socceroos by retreating to the changing room.

"I don't want to die while I coach Japan's national team," he said. "I want to die in my hometown, Sarajevo. When I learned about the victory, I jumped for joy and almost bumped my head against the ceiling."

He has made it a rule not to watch any penalty shootout after his squad lost to Argentina 3-2 on penalties in the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals.

In exchanges with media, he has often called questions "not good."

"Don't go looking for an unborn rabbit in the woods," he said when asked if Japan wanted to finish at the top of their group so that they could avoid travelling to other venues in the tournament.

He has usually spoken in Serbo-Croatian with his words translated into Japanese.

His interpreter, Zen Chida, was reduced to tears when Osim dressed down his squad in an outburst of anger after Japan were held to a 1-1 draw by Qatar in their opening game.

"Don't be a bunch of amateurs. Finish where you must," Osim was quoted as saying by Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura.

"He [Osim] said he is ready to die in every game and that we must go out with the same feeling," Nakamura said.

But his pithy remarks have won the hearts of many Japanese since he arrived in Japan in early 2003.

The collection of his quotations, entitled The Words of Osim, has sold more than 400,000 copies since late 2005.

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