's lacklustre 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Georgia has increased the clamour for Arrigo Sacchi's resignation.
The embattled coach needed a police escort from the dressing-room on Wednesday night amid jeers from supporters still smarting from 's early exit from this summer's Euro 96. With his future once again in doubt, Sacchi hit back, saying: "I don't intend to resign. This has always been an unpopular job. Sometimes you need to know how to take it on the chin but my patience is infinite."
The Italian federation may be less so, however. Luciano Nizzola, the Italian league president and the man expected to be appointed the federation's new head, was cautious on Sacchi's future.
He said Sacchi would still be coach when play Bosnia in a friendly in Sarajevo next month. Beyond that it was "impossible to predict how the federation will behave on the Sacchi issue".
It was hardly in the Eric Cantona league of colourful pronouncements, but Louis Van Gaal's assertion that he wants to "spread my wings" is of real significance to Ajax.
The architect of the Dutch champions' greatest triumphs announced yesterday that he will leave the club at the end of the season.
"I've achieved everything I can with Ajax," said Van Gaal, 45, who took over as coach from Leo Beenhakker in September 1991. "I now want to spread my wings. My contract expires [at the end of the current season] so I have the chance to make that step."
Van Gaal, who joined Ajax in 1988, said he was seeking a job abroad, although he did not have a new club to go to.
"I have told Ajax [of my decision to leave] early out of respect for the club," Van Gaal said. "I would like to go to a club comparable to Ajax."
Van Gaal led Ajax to the league title for the past three seasons, won the European Cup in 1995, the Uefa Cup in 1992, the Dutch and European Super Cups and the World Club Championship. Last season Ajax failed to retain their European crown, losing to Juventus on penalties in Rome. His availability on Europe's managerial merry-go-round will entice several clubs. Barcelona, for one, have expressed an interest in hiring Van Gaal. Francis Lee must be kicking himself.
The Vietnam cup final was marred by violence last Sunday when the losing team attacked the referee. Not such an uncommon event, perhaps, but the disgruntled footballers were the Ho Chi Minh City Police Force team. With nine yellow and red cards shown, the game got ugly after the final whistle when players from the police team, defeated 3-1 by Dong Thap, pushed, kicked and punched the referee as he ran off the pitch.
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