TOKYO (Reuters) - The coach of Japan’s national soccer team Ivica Osim suffered a stroke on Friday, the Japan Football Association (JFA) said.
The 66-year-old Bosnian, in charge since Japan’s exit from the 2006 World Cup, suffered the stroke while watching football on television at his home in Chiba, east of Tokyo.
“We’re shocked. More than the state of the Japan national team, we want Osim to recover quickly,” a tearful JFA President Saburo Kawabuchi told reporters, adding that Osim was in an intensive care unit in hospital.
“His condition is unstable and I can’t say anything at this stage about the long-term outlook.”
The Bosnian had shown signs of stress and ill health for a few months.
At the Asian Cup in July, Osim often appeared irritated and angry before his team fell 3-2 to Saudi Arabia in the semi-finals, at one point calling his own team “amateurs” and reducing his translator to tears.
Fellow coaches said at the time that Osim was under abnormal pressure after Japan’s meek first-round exit from the 2006 World Cup.
“There is enormous psychological pressure on Osim and it’s beginning to get stressful,” United Arab Emirates coach Bruno Metsu said during the games in July.
Osim’s policy of recruiting lesser-known players from Japan’s J-League had been blamed for a shortfall in ticket sales for some games.
The tough-talking man who led Yugoslavia to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals had been expected to lead the team to qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and greater success than under former Brazilian coach Zico.
Failure to win their third consecutive Asian Cup title and fourth overall was not offset by a 4-1 victory over Egypt in their latest game last month.
The Japan team, ranked 30th in the world, is on break now, according to JFA vice chairman Junji Ogura.
Friendly matches are scheduled for late January before games against World Cup qualifier rivals, including North Korea, in February.