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Last Updated: Monday, 28 April, 2003, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
Iraq seek international return
Iraq coach Bernd Stange
Stange is back in touch with his team captain
The coach of the Iraq national side has asked the international community for help in rebuilding his team.

Bernd Stange, who was appointed last November with a brief to take Iraq to the World Cup finals in 2006, left the country before the start of the war.

But the German, who has also coached the Oman national team, is keen to return to his job following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"I don't know how many of my players have survived the war, the hunger and thirst," said Stange.

"Many of my players were from the Army Club and they had to go and fight when the coalition forces entered Iraq. What happened to them I don't know.

We want to find friends who will help in re-building Iraqi football
Iraq coach Bernd Stange

"All I know is that a few officials like Hussain Saeed, Amu Baba and Raad Hammoudi have survived. I also had a chance to speak to my captain [Bassem Abbas] on Saturday.

"Things don't look too cheerful but we have to make a start from somewhere."

Stange said there were already plans set up a match featuring Manchester United's David Beckham and Real Madrid pair Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane.

The team, made up of representatives of the UN children's fund UNICEF, is due to play Spanish giants Barcelona this winter in the United Arab Emirates.

Stange said he also hoped to organise a game between a UNICEF side and Iraq in Baghdad.

"We want to find friends who will help in re-building Iraqi football," he added.

It was claimed that Saddam Hussein's son Uday, who was president of the Iraq National Olympic Committee, had tortured footballers he thought had played badly.

World governing body Fifa launched an investigation and said later it had found no evidence of torture.

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