Domanski-Lyfors quits China
© Foto-net

China are on the hunt for a successor to Marika Domanski-Lyfors after it was confirmed yesterday that the former Sweden coach will leave her post as national women's coach.

Meng Hongtao, media officer of China women's team, announced the news at a press conference yesterday, saying: "Both CFA and coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors expressed a wish to continue the cooperation after the FIFA Women's World Cup in September but she has ultimately quit the post due to health and family reasons. We have worked hard to keep her but we also understand and respect her decision."

"I am happy in China and like the job, but my family comes first," Domanski-Lyfors was quoted as telling Swedish media.

Despite failing to meet her own pre-tournament target of leading the hosts into the last four of the recent FIFA Women's World Cup, Domanski-Lyfors, 47, remains a popular and highly-regarded figure in Chinese football. Indeed, the progress the Steel Roses made under the tutelage of the nation's first-ever foreign coach has ensured the Chinese Football Association (CFA) will once again look abroad for her replacement.

According Meng, who said the public could be "assured" of another foreign coach, the CFA have set basic criteria to recruit a candidate with considerable pedigree, experience of coaching a national team and someone whose coaching ideology will be well suited to the conditions in which China's women's team operates. "These requirements are not new," he added, "but are the basic conditions we have set when we looked for the coaches in the past."

Olympic dream
Domanski-Lyfors' departure has certainly left China women's team facing an uncertain future, and with less than 300 days until the Beijing Olympics kicks off, the CFA would undoubtedly prefer not to be seeking what will be the sixth head coach for the women's team since 2003.

They will nevertheless hope to have a replacement at the helm sooner rather than later. Brazil coach Jorge Barcellos is known to have admirers within the CFA after leading the Canarinhas to the final of China 2007 but the candidate at the top of the current shortlist of candidates is Elisabeth Loisel. With a similar background in European football to Domanski-Lyfors, the former France coach is viewed as the ideal person to ensure a seamless transition ahead of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament.

Loisel has indeed already been approached, and she certainly didn't conceal her excitement at the prospect of taking charge of the talented but unpredictable Chinese. "I am very interested in the job and it will come as an extraordinary challenge in my coaching career," she told local press this week. "But negotiations are ongoing and nothing can be taken for granted for the time being."

Whoever is given the reigns, the top priority for the new coach will be to prepare the team for Beijing 2008, where anything less than a place on the podium will be considered failure. The CFA's hope is that an appointment can be made in time for the new coach to join the team for their next training camp, which kicks off at the end of October.

In addressing the press, spokesman Meng said that the departure of Domanski-Lyfors will not be allowed to affect the team's preparatory work for the Olympics. "Our plan for training camps and friendlies had been made earlier so everything will go as planned," he said, "regardless of who will be the coach."