Haan happy to offer advice to the mainland
He may have been sacked for failing to steer the mainland men's team to the last World Cup - but veteran Dutch football master Arie Haan yesterday revealed he still had the ear of his former bosses.
The 60-year-old has been holding secret meetings with the Chinese Football Association (CFA) during his trip to Beijing, offering advice as China seek winning ways ahead of next year's Olympics and 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
'I'm still very good friends with the CFA. They asked me for my advice and I've been telling them they must change the way they train the players. They're very worried the standard is going down,' said Haan, who despite taking the national side to the 2004 Asia Cup final - where they lost in Beijing to bitter rivals Japan - was ousted by the CFA three months later when China failed to qualify for Germany 2006.
'I managed to get the Chinese to play like a team and become more skilful and score goals. But I now think they've gone too far the other way, and the players have now become too technical. This is what I told the CFA,' he said.
His cosy relationship with his former bosses is likely to irk the current coaches - Serbs Ratomir Dujkovic and Vladimir Petrovic - as they prepare the Olympic and national squads for the Beijing Games and the 2010 World Cup.
Back-biting, disloyalty and bureaucracy within the CFA are seen as major reasons for the slow development of the world's most popular sport - as much as the dearth of natural playing talent.
'The Chinese have problems scoring because they fear a loss of face if they miss in front of goal. I helped them to get over that. But the CFA feel that the development is no longer there,' Haan said. 'They are worried that the young are not developing the physical skills needed and the game is losing popularity.'
Haan has been unemployed since February after walking away from his Cameroon managerial post after only six months because 'I didn't want to live' in the central African nation.
China last week released statistics showing only 30,000 young male and female players were signing up to CFA football academies, against 650,000 a decade ago.
The scandal-plagued reputation of both the national sides and the domestic China Super League also has deterred mainland youngsters.
Haan said he had also thrown his hat into the ring for the vacant Ireland national team job.
'I think the job is perfect for me,' he told the SCMP.