SPORTS

Zagorakis can carry on even if he retires, soccer chief says

Once again expressing his complete faith in Thodoris Zagorakis, the national soccer team’s inspirational and long-serving captain who led Greece to last year’s incredible Euro 2004 triumph, the soccer federation’s chief has offered the player a managerial position at the national team should he ultimately decide to retire, the local sports daily Sportime reported. «I’ve already offered him a managerial role at the national team if he decides to stop. I think he’s the most appropriate choice for this: a manager who will decide on everything, from the team’s strips, trips, and opponents – in cooperation with the coach, of course,» said Vassilis Gagatsis, head of EPO, Greece’s soccer federation, according to Sportime. «Zagorakis wanted to stop – as I’ve said in the past – and may still want to. He believes that he won’t be able to carry on because of his frame of mind and age. That’s already been discussed between him and the coach, and I think he’ll remain with us for the coming period,» he added. Greece begins its qualifying campaign for Euro 2008, where the team hopes to defend its title, next September. Talks between Zagorakis, now 33, and the national team’s officials over the player’s thoughts about retiring were still in progress, Gagatsis said. «I think he has enough spirit to keep him going until the age of 40,» said Gagatsis. Asked why he believed coach Otto Rehhagel renewed his contract for a further two years shortly after Greece’s unsuccessful World Cup campaign, Gagatsis attributed the German’s choice to sentimental reasons. «[He stayed] for sentimental reasons – just that. He could have gone to Germany, a country from which he’s still receiving offers, or either of two national teams in central Europe, which both wanted him,» said Gagatsis. «It’s perfectly clear that he stayed on for sentimental reasons, because of the team’s family ties that enabled these boys to produce all their talent,» Gagatsis remarked. Had Rehhagel not stayed, Gagatsis admitted, he would have opted for another foreign coach as the German’s successor. «I’d asked many individuals to name one Greek, and got no answers,» Gagatsis said. The federation’s chief said that, judging by his impressions of national team training sessions, Rehhagel was seriously considering injecting new players into his aging team. «I’ve noticed that the coach is trying out new players. Let’s not forget that the Euro 2008 qualifiers begin in September, in other words almost a year after the end of the World Cup qualifiers,» said Gagatsis. «Some of the boys will have aged even more, and Otto appears to also have other players in mind.»