Football: Clemente goes on the attack

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The Independent Online
THE SPANISH coach Javier Clemente maintained his humour yesterday as everyone from supporters to politicians voiced their opinion on his future in the game.

The issue of Clemente's continued presence as national team coach has become a political football in Spain following a 3-2 defeat to Cyprus in Saturday's European Championship qualifying match.

Esperanza Aguirre, the minister for education and sports, called for the Spanish football federation to take action in the wake of a defeat she described as "unthinkable".

"I'm convinced that at this time the whole of the federation are thinking very seriously about the immense disappointment that all fans are suffering and I'm sure the federation will have to take measures," Aguirre said.

Clemente responded by telling Aguirre to mind her own business.

"I think there are much more important measures that need to be taken for the good of the country," the coach said. "It seems to me that before you look at football there are 15 or 20 urgent measures to be taken.

"Worrying about measure number 20 and forgetting the 18 or 19 necessary for the people of our country seems to be a little exaggerated.

"Nevertheless, within a short time I will tell Minister Aguirre, or the President, what measures they should take for the good of the country."

Press, pundits, politicians and the public have been falling over themselves to give their opinions about the beleaguered national coach, who has been under pressure since Spain's surprise first-round exit in the World Cup.

Clemente has been variously described as "a public enemy", "an embarrassment" and presiding over the worst team in the history of Spanish football.

But the Basque coach still has the backing of the Spanish federation and is almost certain to stay on in his job - at least until the friendly international against Russia on 23 September.