Saturday 18 November 2017

Under-fire boss Moldovan boss lashes out at 'rats' in camp

Moldova manager Igor Dobrovolski: ‘Pressure’. Photo: AFP
Moldova manager Igor Dobrovolski: ‘Pressure’. Photo: AFP
Aidan Fitzmaurice

Aidan Fitzmaurice

The Moldovan camp is anything but happy as they prepare to welcome Ireland to a rainy Chisinau, while their under-fire manager has hit out at "rats" in his squad who are making a tough job even more difficult.

It's not easy to manage, or play for, Moldova these days, as their Russian coach Igor Dobrovolski has learned, his side booed off by disgruntled fans after Thursday's 3-0 loss at home to Serbia, and key player Eugeniu Cebotaru moved to make a public apology to supporters for his display in that defeat.

There's still a degree of loyalty, as by last night the Moldovan FA claimed to have sold 6,000 tickets (the cheap seats costing just €4) and officials are predicting a gate of 8,000 in the modern, tidy, 10,000-capacity Zimbru Stadium tonight.

But those fans are losing patience in a nation which has been dogged by political unrest and street protests in the last 12 months, Moldovans feeling badly let down by their politicians and their footballers.

A Ukrainian-born ex-Russian international who grew up in Moldova and played international football for three outfits, Dobrovolski (49) said yesterday he "could resign" if they lose to Ireland this evening in what would be a third straight loss.

It's not quite 'sack me or back me' but with money tight for properly funding football in the poorest country in Europe, you get the feeling this is a job that few coaches want. They have a shallow pool of talent to pick from in Moldova, where more than half the squad play in a domestic league whose clubs have struggled to make any sort of Dundalk-style breakthrough in Europe, and a league which has been flooded by foreign imports (one recent game between two of their top clubs featured more Brazilians than Moldovans).

Moldova's manager and players have been hammered, in print media and online, since those 0-4 (Wales) and 0-3 (Serbia) defeats in qualifying with leaks from the camp upsetting the boss, and Dobrovolski admitted to that unease at yesterday's press conference, a lack of interest evident in the fact that as many Irish reporters (3) were present as local media.

"I will exclude players who do not unite with the whole team. It's important not to have rats in the team," he said.

"Players who criticise the team to the external media, it's not acceptable - and such players will be thrown out of the team. Whatever the status of the player - he may be a star but if he criticises the team he will be thrown away.

"Some relatives of players make comments and express criticism but please believe me, there will be changes. Even when our teams won some matches, people were not satisfied. If the fans indeed love their country and their team they have to support us despite any result.

"Fans are the same people and the same citizens as the players, we are all together citizens of this country.

"Any criticism of the players has to remain inside the team. Yes, there have been major errors and players have to take criticism but what footballer wants to do that, play badly? No one. The players are disappointed but they are not made of steel, they have feelings, despite the result we try to morally strengthen ourselves, it's a short period into the next game against Ireland, and it's not that easy," he added.

"Supporters have the right to criticise but I am not influenced by this, my main purpose is to get the players in good shape, if pressure comes from the fans it's their business. In my time in charge of the team there is always pressure on the team from critics but our job is to prepare. Yes I can resign if we lose, but our teams deserves appreciation."

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