Wed, Nov 28, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Venezuela soccer coach Paez resigns

FULL TIME Richard Paez is Venezuela's most successful and longest-serving soccer coach, but he has endured a difficult relationship with his country's vocal supporters

DPA AND AP , CARACAS

Venezuela soccer coach Richard Paez addresses a press conference in Barranquilla, Colombia, on Nov. 14. Paez resigned on Monday.

PHOTO: AFP

Venezuela national team coach Richard Paez resigned after clashing with fans and the press, the country's soccer authorities confirmed on Monday.

Venezuelan Football Federation president Rafael Esquivel said Paez's resignation is final and his job as national coach will end on Dec. 31. He had been under contract until the end of next year.

Paez will leave as the most successful and longest-serving soccer coach in the history of Venezuela, the traditional weakling of South American sport.

He took over the national team on March 28, 2001. In the current South American qualifying round for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Venezuela is fifth, with five points after four games.

Esquivel said a replacement will be appointed early next year.

In a letter read by the federation president, Paez said he resigned "with deep pain but with irrevocable and unpostponable firmness."

The coach complained of the "inadequate atmosphere" surrounding the team, which, he said, affected its performance.

"As I'm not going to change my style of working with the national team, [which] has given us so many tangible and positive results, I don't want to be an impediment or an obstacle in the path to our goal: qualifying for the World Cup,'' Paez said.

The remarks were interpreted as a reference to Paez's prickly relations with Venezuela's vocal fans.

The strains in the relationship were clearly visible during last week's game against Bolivia in San Cristobal, which hosts Venezuela won 5-3 via late goals.

Many fans demanded Paez's resignation and the exit of the coach's son, Ricardo David, from the national team.

The coach rejected the criticism and told fans to "go manage their homes" because he was boss in the national team.

Paez did little to hide his annoyance with many in the crowd of 25,000, who chanted and shouted for changes to the lineup. Paez responded with some choice gestures to the crowd.

Paez led Venezuela, better known for its baseball than soccer, to modest success.

Under his direction, Venezuela ended up eighth in qualifying for last year's World Cup, their highest finish since 1998. Venezuela is the only South American country never to have played in a World Cup.

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