Van Commenee pledges to resolve bitter Idowu row

Head coach wants 'solution' to stand-off over how and why triple jumper pulled out of Euro Team Championships
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The Independent Online

It was not exactly a "peace in our time" declaration but at the end of the European Team Championships here yesterday Charles van Commenee pledged to bring an end to the Great British Twitter War that has cast an embarrassing shadow over the British squad's time in the Swedish capital.

"This whole issue needs a solution," the head coach of UK Athletics said, referring to his public spat with Phillips Idowu about the circumstances of the world triple jump champion's withdrawal from the British team. "I can't make a solution here in Stockholm. I have to do it back in London."

It remains to be seen whether Van Commenee and Idowu can repair their relationship but a meeting between the pair is urgently required after the damage done since the eve of the championship's British team press conference on Friday. It was during that gathering that Van Commenee accused Idowu of lacking "dignity and responsibility" by announcing his withdrawal from the team on Twitter. Idowu responded on Saturday by claiming that the coach's assertion that the pair had discussed the matter was "a blatant lie."

"The situation is not good as it is and we need to find a solution together," Van Commenee added yesterday. "That's what's going to happen." Asked if he could work together with Idowu, Van Commenee replied: "I never do 'if' questions. I am a very factual person."

As to being called a liar, the Dutchman said: "Obviously that's one of the things that needs to be addressed. Sometimes it's a good thing to bite your tongue. I'll address everything that needs to be addressed in private."

The fact that the dispute has thus far been conducted in a public arena could hardly help foster team spirit two months ahead of the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, and 13 months away from the London Olympics. Idowu could not resist having another dig at Van Commenee on Twitter yesterday, tweeting: "I was juggling and my daughter said I look like a clown. At least it wasn't for just being on Twitter. Hillarious!"

Van Commenee might not have seen the funny side, having embellished his admonishment of Idowu on Friday by saying: "Twitter is for clowns and attention seekers with too much time on their hands." However, according to Andy Turner, one of the frequent tweeters on the British team, the spat had not damaged morale among the squad.

"We've pretty much ignored it," Turner said, after winning the 110m hurdles yesterday. "It's a clash between two people. We are here to do a job and ignore the other stuff. We are a close-knit team anyway. Nothing like that could affect the team bond.

Van Commenee added: "Team spirit is something we've been working hard on, because it was almost non-existent. We have to protect what we've built, especially in difficult situations. It's not what you want, but it's interesting to find a way out."