(Reuters) – Lebanon coach Theo Bucker said he was ‘broken’ and unsure if he would continue in the job with the World Cup hopefuls after 24 players were punished for allegedly fixing international and club matches.
The Lebanese Football Federation handed out the various penalties, including life bans for defender Ramez Dayoub and forward Mahmoud El-Ali, on Tuesday with the Asian Football Confederation’s disciplinary committee also investigating.
The German coach has been the driving force behind Lebanon’s fairytale run to the final stages of World Cup qualifying for the first time as the West Asians chase an unlikely place in Brazil.
"A whole country was hoping to do something different. Now everything has been demolished," the German told United Arab Emirates newspaper Sport 360.
"I’m looking in the next two or three days to have a meeting with the federation to talk about my position.
"I don’t know yet what I will do, I need to speak to the board and the president. I can’t say whether I will continue or not," Bucker said.
"Inside, I’m broken. I really need to think things over and make the right decision, that’s it."
Bucker has guided the team to memorable World Cup qualifying victories over regional heavyweights Iran and South Korea despite the team being ranked a lowly 178th by FIFA less than two years ago.
A 1-0 defeat by Qatar in November hit their hopes of taking one of the two qualifying spots from the five-team Group A with another defeat away to pool leaders Uzbekistan next month likely to end their Brazilian dreams.
It is not the first time Lebanon has been caught up in a matchfixing scandal.
"The tragic thing is when I came to Lebanon 12 years ago, I was facing the same situation," Bucker said.
"Lebanon got kicked out of the federation because of match fixing, now after 10 years I come back and there is exactly the same situation."
The Lebanese FA said the players were entitled to appeal the decision but added that some of them have directly confessed to their involvement in rigging games.
The second incident leaving the much-travelled coach at a crossroads.
"Personally, I’m very disappointed with a couple of guys I really trusted," the 64-year-old said.
"I don’t know what to think. Me, personally, I was putting a lot of effort, a lot of time, a lot of work into making a path in this country, and some really stupid idiots have destroyed everything."
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Patrick Johnston)
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