The Japan Football Association on Friday took a stand against former Japan head coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s claim that it defamed him in a news conference following his dismissal just two months before the World Cup finals.
At the first hearing in the suit filed with the Tokyo District Court, the JFA contested the complaint by Halilhodzic that it damaged his reputation and gave a negative impression of his personality. Halilhodzic is seeking a public apology and ¥1 (about 1 cent) in symbolic compensation.
At a news conference held on April 9, two days after the dismissal, JFA chairman Kozo Tashima said that Halilhodzic, 66, was fired because he lacked communication skills and did not have the confidence of team members.
The Bosnian said in his complaint that Tashima’s remarks implied there was a problem with his character and his reputation as a soccer coach was seriously damaged.
However, the JFA’s lawyer said in court that the remarks could not be regarded as defamation. In addition, the lawyer said it is FIFA, not the Tokyo District Court, which has jurisdiction in the matter.
Halilhodzic released a statement through his lawyer Friday saying that after the World Cup finals he judged that he should continue with the lawsuit he filed in May with the district court.
Tashima’s remarks about him were “the total opposite to the sportsmanship demonstrated by the Japan national team” in Russia, he said in the statement.
Halilhodzic took the job in March 2015 and guided the Samurai Blue to 21 wins, nine draws and eight losses, including friendlies. But pressure mounted after the team could only manage a 1-1 draw with Mali and a 2-1 loss to Ukraine in Belgium in March, with neither opponent bound for the World Cup finals held in Russia.