Iraq Coach Criticizes Coalition

Times Staff Writer

Bernard Stange, the German coach of Iraq's national soccer team, Sunday sharply criticized the U.S.-led coalition, saying it has failed to provide proper support for the team, and threatened to resign unless such support is forthcoming.

"In a country without any working cinemas or theaters, where people are afraid to go out at night, the successes of our team are a matter of huge national pride," Stange said in Baghdad.

"That's important for the return of normalcy. Doesn't the coalition, doesn't Paul Bremer [the United States' chief Iraq administrator] understand this?"

Stange was hired as Iraq's coach one year ago but left the country just before the U.S.-led invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein. He returned after the war and helped Iraq qualify for the 2004 Asian Cup in China, even though the team could not play any home games.

"I came here and found nothing -- no balls, no nets, no funds, no competitions and no players," he said. "The main stadium had been turned into a parking lot for American tanks, and its turf [had been] destroyed."

Iraq qualified for next June's tournament after getting help from FIFA and from the German soccer federation, both of whom Stange thanked.

"But for the coalition, I only have hard words," he told Associated Press. "I know that soccer is not the most important thing in life, but this country has always been crazy about the game and they [coalition leaders] should understand that our successes are helping boost morale and lift Iraq from the ashes.

"If there is no change, I will leave my job by the end of the year."

U.S. Tops Mexico

Abby Wambach scored two goals and Cindy Parlow also scored as the U.S. defeated Mexico, 3-1, Sunday in front of a Texas-record women's soccer crowd of 23,176 in the Cotton Bowl at Dallas.

The U.S. finished the year with a 17-2-4 record and now has two months off before regrouping in January to begin preparing for the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Costa Rica for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Monica Gonzalez scored for Mexico on a penalty kick in the first half after defender Kylie Bivens had fouled Patricia Perez.

Real Madrid Pacts

Spanish champion Real Madrid announced it has reached agreement on a new five-year contract with Spanish international defender Michel Salgado and has extended the contracts of two other national team standouts -- striker Raul and attacking midfielder Guti.

Salgado, 28, would have become a free agent at the end of this season, and Chelsea and Manchester United each had expressed interest in signing him. But in the end he opted to forgo a potentially lucrative move to the English Premier League to stay in Spain.

"It could be said that I have lost money," he said, "but I have won in other things. From now on, my priority is to retire in Madrid, and I consider that to be a privilege."

Raul, 26, Real Madrid's fourth-leading scorer of all time with 225 goals and the national team's all-time top scorer with 35 goals in 66 games, had his contract extended from 2005 until 2009. Guti, 27, had his contract extended until 2008.

Quick Passes

Cologne, third from the bottom in the German Bundesliga standings, signed former Swiss international midfielder Marcel Koller, 42, as coach, replacing Friedhelm Funkel, who was fired Thursday.... Libertad successfully defended its Paraguayan league title, defeating reigning South American champion Olimpia, 6-5, on penalty kicks after a 0-0 tie, in the decisive game of the season.

Times wire services contributed to this report.

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