The China Football Association (CFA) yesterday rebuked the mainland's media over reports about a power struggle with the government concerning the appointment of a new coach, declaring, 'We're in charge and that's final.'
Newspapers and websites claimed the CFA had to seek approval from the State General Administration of Sports (SGAS), saying ministers could reject the short-listed candidates.
But Wong Yingquan, of Infront China, the CFA's marketing partner hired to troubleshoot the nation's soccer scene, blamed the media for 'undermining' the organisation.
The Jingbo newspaper and sina.com claimed the CFA's role in the hunt for a new coach was over and it was waiting for the nod from government sports chiefs.
'Such reports are not true,' Wong said. 'It is normal to run these things past SGAS and ask their advice. But we [the CFA] have the final say and that's a fact.'
The administration of sports - the government ministry charged with all sports legislation - also rejected the media's claims.
'The CFA will make the final decision over the new head coach. It will not be made by the ministry,' said a SGAS spokesman.
Just who the CFA has recommended to take China to 2008 Olympics glory and qualification for the 2010 World Cup remains the topic of widespread speculation.
The CFA pulled the shutters down after intense conjecture by pundits, fans and bloggers led to false reports and confusion.
Englishman Howard Wilkinson, Frenchman Philippe Troussier and Dutchman Wim van Hanegem are believed to be in the running.
However, last week the best-selling Titan Sports newspaper reported Troussier and Van Hanegem 'had been eliminated' because they 'failed to interview well'.
Most media are in the dark as to who will be handed the job.Wong said the reason for secrecy was to spare emotions. 'We are being sensitive to those involved. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings at this stage so everything is strictly confidential,' he said.
Wong said an announcement would be made within the next 10 days.