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Russia coach Romantsev skips championship draw again

© Reuters 2002

MOSCOW, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Russia coach Oleg Romantsev will not attend Friday's qualifying draw for the 2004 European soccer championship finals, a spokesman for the Russian Football Union (RFU) said on Thursday. The Russians are sending assistant coach Mikhail Gershkovich to Portugal instead.

It will be the second time in less than two months that Romantsev has missed a major international gathering of soccer coaches and officials.

Romantsev, well-known for his dislike of public appearances, also failed to turn up for the 2002 World Cup finals' draw where the Russians were drawn in group H with Japan, Belgium and Tunisia.

Romantsev, who also serves as Spartak Moscow president and head coach, said he missed the December 1 draw in Pusan, South Korea because he needed a holiday, while on Friday he will be busy training with his club for a new season. But a top RFU official told Reuters that the Russian soccer chiefs were not pleased with Romantsev's decision.

"He (Romantsev) often complains that the Russian team isn't well perceived in the West, but how should they treat us if our national team's head coach turns down Western media at every opportunity," said the official, who wanted to remain anonymous.

Romantsev is well known for not attending press conferences and lashing out against media. Last year, he ordered the players on the national team not to talk to Russian journalists for two months after what he perceived was biased media coverage of Russia's World Cup qualifier against Yugoslavia.

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