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Fired Japan football coach Halilhodzic set for legal action

Tokyo (AFP) – Lawyers for ousted Japan football coach Vahid Halilhodzic said Friday they are prepared to take Japanese officials to court over his shock firing just two months before the World Cup.

The Franco-Bosnian was unceremoniously booted by the Japan Football Association (JFA) earlier this month but his lawyers are demanding answers for what they call an “abusive” breach of contract.

“Vahid wants the truth — he’s been deeply hurt, he feels betrayed,” Halilhodzic’s attorney Lionel Vincent told AFP.

“First of all the decision of the JFA is not valid, legally speaking. What they did is wrong, it’s outrageous by any standard,” he insisted.

“We’re ready to take action — if we don’t get the truth from the JFA, we’ll seek the truth before a judge,” added Vincent, saying a claim would be filed for wrongful dismissal and defamation of character if Halilhodzic felt answers were not forthcoming.

At a press conference in Tokyo on Friday, Halilhodzic slammed JFA president Kozo Tashima for blaming the sacking on a breakdown in communication between the 65-year-old and senior players.

“I never had a problem with anyone — certainly not with any player,” said Halilhodzic, his face reddening in anger.

“I want the truth. If there was an issue, the president should have told me — not just show up in Paris and sack me like that. 

“It showed a total lack of respect for three years of work, qualifying Japan for the World Cup. I never imagined it would end on such a sour note.”

Halilhodzic’s legal representatives tried to meet JFA lawyers this week but were quickly shooed out of the room, according to Vincent.

– ‘Not the proper way’ –

“The way they are exercising their right is abusive,” said Vincent. “This is not the proper way to do it.

“We are just waiting for the JFA’s reaction and then will discuss with Vahid. The first step is to get Vahid’s reputation back. This humiliation is terrible for him.”

An emotional Halilhodzic waved a copy of a message he said he had received from Japan defender Tomoaki Makino, testifying the player “never had a communication problem” with the firebrand coach — even reading it out twice.

“You can’t please everyone all of the time when you’re trying to prepare a team,” said Halilhodzic.

“But we qualified for the World Cup by topping a very difficult group and that’s not easy,” added the former Algeria coach.

In an interview with AFP on Thursday, Halilhodzic said: “I don’t want to leave the country as a mess, an incompetent.”

The JFA has turned to former technical director Akira Nishino for the World Cup in Russia, where the Blue Samurai are drawn in a tough group alongside Colombia, Poland and Senegal.

Halilhodzic, who was appointed Japan coach in March 2015, was also fired by the Ivory Coast just months before the 2010 World Cup.

“In that case, the president of the country called me to explain there were lots of political reasons for making the switch,” he explained. 

“What the JFA have suddenly done, I really can’t understand. It’s very difficult to accept.”

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