Frying pans, fires, football

Invited by Tony Blair, the Iraq national team is apparently playing a British parliamentary XI tomorrow and then heading up the M1 to West Brom to take on that well-known Midlands outfit, Trinidad and Tobago. The Spanish authorities have refused them visas, presumably out of political spite, and Mr Bush has not replied to their letter, but that – and the fact that he hasn’t been paid for a year – seems unlikely to disturb their coach, Bernd Stange.

Mr Stange last visited The Hawthorns back in 1979 as trainer of Carl Zeiss Jena, at which stage he still seems to have been a Stasi spy. He later trained the DDR national team and Hertha BSC Berlin, but was kicked out when his 247-page Stasi file was revealed in 1995. Stays in the Ukraine, Australia and Oman followed, before Saddam hired him in 2002 to work with the Iraqi team when Uday wasn’t torturing them. As he observed at the time:

If I am coach of Cameroon, I might get killed by a lion and if I accepted to coach a team in Australia, I could be bitten by a poisonous snake. Even here in Germany, we have people who are driving 130 kmh in 60 kmh zones, so there are dangers all over the world.

Mr Stange still has a few years left in him and, since he seems to be addicted to high-risk/high-reward scenarios, one can’t help wondering what could possibly trump East Germany and Saddam. Now, if only Dennis Wise would move on from Millwall.

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