The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iraq coach fears for players

Berlin: Iraq soccer trainer Bernd Stange believes Germany’s high-speed motorways are more dangerous than anything he encountered while working in Iraq and said after fleeing his adopted country that he hoped an “idiotic” war could be averted.

The former East German trainer, who abruptly returned home to Germany from Baghdad at the weekend, said he wanted to get back to Iraq as soon as possible, prayed his players survived a war and wanted to work for peace in the meantime.

Stange, whose controversial appointment in Iraq last year caused further tensions to already strained German-US relations, said he was bitter about leaving and angry about the war preparations that meant all his players being called up to the Iraqi army.

“I don’t have any players I can train any more,” he said. “I’m disappointed and bitter because everything started off so well. I’m not sure I’ll see all my players alive again. The only thing they want is to play football.

“Forty-six percent of the population in Iraq is younger than 16 years old. Bombs are going to be dropped on these people'”

“At breakfast on Monday a young player told me his greatest wish — Sharon, Arafat, Schroeder, Chirac and Putin should come to Iraq and together with the President prevent war from coming,” Stange wrote in his diary, according to excerpts published in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

“Why don’t political leaders ever come up with ideas like that'” Stange asked.

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