Sat, Nov 17, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Japan soccer coach Osim suffers stroke, in serious condition

AFP , TOKYO

Japan soccer coach Ivica Osim, a Bosnian who led the former Yugoslavia to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals, suffered a stroke yesterday and is in a serious condition, the Japan Football Association said.

"His situation is very unstable and at this stage it is not appropriate to give prospects for the long-run," association president Saburo Kawabuchi said. "I hope he survives."

Kawabuchi, who fought back tears as he announced the news, said Osim collapsed overnight in suburban Tokyo and was rushed to hospital, where he was in intensive care.

The 66-year-old, a former striker for Strasbourg, has suffered heart problems and high blood pressure in recent years. Kawabuchi said no one was named interim coach and that the association was "praying for his recovery."

Osim took over the job last year from Brazil's Zico.

Under him, Japan have won 11 matches, lost three and drawn five. Japan advanced to the semi-finals in the Asian Cup but failed to take their third straight title, which went to dark horses Iraq.

Osim joked about his health during a make-or-break Asian Cup faceoff against Australia.

He retreated to the changing room after extra-time and refused to watch Japan win 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 tie.

"I didn't see it because it was bad for my heart," Osim said at the time. "I don't want to die while I coach Japan's national team. I want to die in my home town, Sarajevo."

He had gone to a domestic match on Thursday evening accompanied by a soccer association official and did not seem to be in poor health, said Kozo Tajima, the association's executive director.

He said Osim collapsed at home while watching an English Premier League match on television and was discovered by his wife.

"No one from the association has yet seen him in person. Only his wife and interpreter are with him at the hospital," Tajima said.

Osim had undergone monthly health checks at a university hospital and always had medication with him in case of emergency, he said.

Osim last coached Japan in an Oct. 17 match in Osaka, in which the team cruised to a 4-1 victory over Egypt.

The next fixtures slated for Osim's Japan are the East Asian championships in February. Japan next year will also launch its campaign for a berth in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Osim coached clubs in Greece and Austria before coming to Japan in 2003 to guide J-League bottom-dogs JEF United into title contention.

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