By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) – Montenegro have named Bosnian Faruk Hadzibegic as coach to replace Serb Ljubisa Tumbakovic who was sacked in June after boycotting the home qualifier with Kosovo for political reasons.
“The Montenegro Football Association (FSCG) executive board has unanimously voted Hadzibegic as the national team’s head coach and a contract will be signed until the end of next year,” the FSCG said on Thursday.
The 61-year old former Yugoslavia defender has coached several teams after a playing career which included the 1990 World Cup, where he missed the decisive penalty in the 3-2 shootout defeat by Argentina in the quarter-finals.
Hadzibegic faces a tough task to revive Montenegro’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign after the Adriatic nation collected two points from their opening four games.
Tumbakovic, who took over as Serbia coach on July 1, was dismissed after he and two of Montenegro’s Serbian-born players, Mirko Ivanic and Filip Stojkovic, boycotted the 1-1 Group A draw with Serbia’s former southern province Kosovo.
Kosovo, whose population is more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian, declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has been recognised as a sovereign nation by more than 110 countries.
However, several nations, including Serbia, China, five EU members and Russia, refuse to recognise Kosovo.
The match was played behind closed doors after Montenegro were punished with a crowd ban for racist incidents by their fans in a 5-1 home drubbing by England in March.
Montenegro are level with Bulgaria on two points at the bottom of their five-team qualifying section.
England top the group with six points from two games, followed by the Czech Republic, who have six from three, and surprise package Kosovo on five from three matches.
Montenegro next host the Czechs on Sept 10.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)