When Iraq U-20 team coach Hakim Shaker was asked on the night of December 1, 2012 by FA president Najih Humoud to take charge of the national team on a temporary basis, the Iraqi youth would never have thought that he would be faced with the destruction of his youth side and the dilemma of forming a new youth team only two months before the FIFA World Youth Championship in Turkey. But this is just what the Iraqi coach now faces.
In his thirteen matches and two month spell at the helm of the national side, the coach blooded several of his youth team players at senior international level, and they now inadvertently form part of Serbian coach Vladimir Petrović’s squad.
The problem stems from the fact that the national side and the youth team will play key matches in the space of a few days in the month of June.
The Iraqi seniors will play a crucial World Cup qualifier on June 4 against Oman in Muscat, and a further two qualifying games against Japan on June 11 in Doha and in Brisbane against the Socceroos on June 18.
Five days later, the Iraqi youth team will kick-off their World Youth Cup campaign in Antalya against Peter Taylor’s England.
This has forced the FA to keep several members of Hakim’s youth team with the seniors and ask the youth coach to look for new replacements for his own youth side.
On April 8, the FA held showdown talks with the youth team coaching staff. The meeting came a day after the coach lamented the FA’s belated preparations for the World Youth Championship, claiming that the FA had neglected the youth team after he had handed in a training regime to FA officials, so that the FA would organise training camps and warm-up matches for the team.
The coach has been on a collision course with the Iraqi FA since being told to look for new players, with the youth team’s key players such as Ali Adnan, Saif Salman and Mohanad Abdul-Rahim incorporated into the senior set-up. The coach has been in charge of the youth team for three years and put together the Iraqi youth side that reached the finals of the Asian Youth Championship for the first time since 2000.
Hakim apparently suggested to the FA that the Serbian Petrović should take over both the senior and youth teams to solve the problem, but this was turned down.
However it seems that things are not so rosy with the coach and the FA, with Hakim seemingly irked by the FA’s order for him to look for new players to take the place of his beloved golden generation.
The coach now has the unenviable task of putting a completely new youth side, with the FIFA deadline for naming the preliminary squad looming.