Sarkis quits as Lebanon coach over lack of player cooperation

Champville head coach Ghassan Sarkis reacts during a basketball game in Beirut, Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Ghassan Sarkis told The Daily Star he has quit his job as Lebanon’s national team coach, just four days before the start of the West Asian basketball qualifier due to take place in Jordan June 11-15.

Sarkis left his post after a series of problems, including the late start to his WABA preparations as well as the inability of many of Lebanon’s best players to attend practice. The coach said that many of his players invented injuries to avoid training.

“Working conditions were worse than before,” Sarkis, who is also the head coach at Lebanese champions Champville, said during a telephone interview. “I have stopped my work because I felt there is something wrong taking place at several levels.

“We had not [nearly] enough players at practice, we said OK and we never back down because it’s our national team and it represents a duty.”

Sarkis was also upset at the Lebanese Basketball Federation’s as yet unconfirmed decision to put Champville players Nadim Hawi and Karl Sarkis on the elite players list.

According to a rule created three years ago, players are put on the elite list in an effort to distribute the league’s best local players equally. Each team is only able to own five elite players. However, the objectivity of the list has always come under question, especially considering the lack of clear criteria to evaluate the players.

“I have tried to call back three others [Miguel Martinez, Nadim Hawi and Karl Sarkis] and thank them [because] they joined directly, despite having exams at their colleges, and other work to do,” he added.

“Yet we were surprised that the federation is considering their names as potential elite players. This is something really low and illogical. They should have banned the others players who [did] not comply with our call and who faked injuries to escape,” said Sarkis.

If Karl Sarkis and Hawi are named on the list, Champville will have six elite players, since they are close to signing Martinez and Hussein al-Khatib, in addition to Fadi al-Khatib and Nadim Souaid, meaning the club would have to release one player.

“I am not retracting my decision until I am sure they have a plan for everything. I need to know that those players who sacrificed their personal life for the sake of the national team won’t be treated improperly while some others who escaped the national team won’t be punished,” said Sarkis.

“We also need to know their plan for the national team. It is impossible to stay like this. Unless we are sure that the team will get good care and preparations we are not ready to sacrifice more.

“I have never said I am coaching the national team for money. But we are not even receiving our small rights. Since the Asian Championship [in Wuhan 2011] I have not been paid, neither have my assistant staff,” he added.

But a source from the federation said no decision had been taken regarding the list of elite of players.

“We respect what the coach [Sarkis] has been doing for the sake of Lebanon. Despite all the difficulties, he never quit his job, but I think he was told some unconfirmed information. But [this is] just what some in the federation are suggesting,” the source said.

“We hope to find a solution quickly, because we are just two days away from leaving for Amman. And it’s pity for things to reach this place.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 08, 2012, on page 14.




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