With just over two years to go before the Beijing Games, China's quest for a head coach for its men's Olympic squad descended into farce yesterday. A power struggle between the all-powerful State General Administration of Sports and the Chinese Football Association means the mainland are once again on the lookout for a new head coach. After months of searching, the CFA's three shortlisted candidates were rejected out of hand by the government's sports ministry. 'After a recent assessment, the three candidates have failed to obtain the permission of the relevant leadership in the State Ministry of Sports,' Wong Yingquan, the general manager of Infront China, the CFA's influential new marketing partner, told state media. The rebuff means millions of fans face prolonged humiliation despite numerous promises by the CFA that the nation will be a footballing force by the time of the 2008 Olympics. 'I am very confused. I don't know what is going on,' Wong admitted to the SCMP yesterday. He added: 'There's a lot being said but I cannot confirm or deny anything at this stage. I just know it has got very confusing.' Wong has repeatedly stated the CFA would have the final say on its three shortlisted candidates, revealed by the Chinese media as Wim van Hanegem, Howard Wilkinson and Berti Vogts. The rejection means the CFA's role has seemingly been weakened to that of a human resources department, tasked with finding suitable candidates but not senior enough to appoint a head coach. The CFA and the State Ministry of Sports refused to comment on the latest twist. However, Wong is reported in the Beijing Entertainment Messenger as saying the sports ministry is interested in Frenchman, Philippe Troussier - a candidate who had earlier been snubbed by the CFA. 'He's caught [the ministry's] attention again,' Wong is quoted as saying. 'I cannot say anything at this stage but these things should not be reported.' The CFA initially snubbed Troussier, who coached the Japanese national team from 1998 to 2002 with great success, winning the 2000 Asian Cup, reaching the final of the 2001 Confederations Cup and going through to the last 16 at the 2002 World Cup. He also took China's greatest rivals to a fifth-place finish at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. A convert to Islam who lives in Morocco, he was the head coach of the Moroccan national team, taking over after the country's failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. However, the Moroccan FA fired him after only two months owing to a difference in opinion. In China, where politics and sports often blur as one, the CFA believed his close relationship with Japan was a problem. But it is his success at making their arch-rivals into a relative footballing force that now seems to attract the all-powerful bureaucrats in Beijing. Currently, the Olympic side are coached by Jia Xiuquan, who will continue as a joint coach with whoever the overseas appointment is going to be. Meanwhile, the national team proper - who resume their Asian Cup campaign on August 16 against Singapore in Tianjin - will continue being coached by Zhu Guanghu.